A promising debut spoiled by a design issue and cultural insensitivity.

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HOOT AND HOWL ACROSS THE DESERT

LIFE IN THE WORLD'S DRIEST DESERTS

Creatively stylized images of flora and fauna native to some 15 deserts around the world.

Interspersing her examination with closer looks at camels and at sand dunes, the bird communities associated with acacia trees, and like intriguing sidelights, Tzomaka poses groups of select residents from all three types of desert (hot, cold, and coastal) against sere backdrops, with pithily informative comments on characteristic behaviors and survival strategies. But significant bits of her presentation are only semilegible, with black type placed on deep blue or purple backgrounds. And rarely (if ever) have desert animals looked so…floral. Along with opting for a palette of bright pinks, greens, and purples rather than natural hues for her flat, screen-print–style figures, Tzomaka decorates them with contrasting whirls of petals and twining flourishes, stars, scallops, pinwheels, and geometric lines or tessellations. Striking though these fancies are, artistic license has led her into some serious overgeneralizations, as she claims to be drawing on regional folk motifs for inspiration—justifying the ornate ruffs and borders on creatures of the Kalahari with a vague note that “African tribes make accessories and jewelry…decorated with repeated lines, circles and dots,” for instance, and identifying a Northwest Coastal pattern on an arctic fox as “Inuit.” Readers may find less shifty footing in more conventional outings like Jim Arnosky’s Watching Desert Wildlife (1998).

A promising debut spoiled by a design issue and cultural insensitivity. (map, index) (Informational picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-500-65198-8

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Together with its companions, too rushed to be first introductions but suitable as second ones.

MARIE CURIE AND RADIOACTIVITY

From the Graphic Science Biographies series

A highlights reel of the great scientist’s life and achievements, from clandestine early schooling to the founding of Warsaw’s Radium Institute.

In big sequential panels Bayarri dashes through Curie’s career, barely pausing at significant moments (“Mother! A letter just arrived. It’s from Sweden,” announces young Irène. “Oh, really?…They’re awarding me another Nobel!”) in a seeming rush to cover her youth, family life, discoveries, World War I work, and later achievements (with only a closing timeline noting her death, of “aplastic anemia”). Button-eyed but recognizable figures in the panels pour out lecture-ish dialogue. This is well stocked with names and scientific terms but offered with little or no context—characteristics shared by co-published profiles on Albert Einstein and the Theory of Relativity (“You and your thought experiments, Albert!” “We love it! The other day, Schrödinger thought up one about a cat”), Charles Darwin and the Theory of Evolution, and Isaac Newton and the Laws of Motion. Dark-skinned Tierra del Fuegans make appearances in Darwin, prompting the young naturalist to express his strong anti-slavery views; otherwise the cast is white throughout the series. Engagingly informal as the art and general tone of the narratives are, the books will likely find younger readers struggling to keep up, but kids already exposed to the names and at least some of the concepts will find these imports, translated from the Basque, helpful if, at times, dry overviews.

Together with its companions, too rushed to be first introductions but suitable as second ones. (glossary, index, resource list) (Graphic biography. 7-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5415-7821-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Graphic Universe

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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A sketchy teaser in search of an audience.

EDDIE THE ELECTRON MOVES OUT

From the Eddie the Electron series , Vol. 2

A subatomic narrator describes how helium, a nonrenewable resource, is formed deep underground.

The very simple cartoon style of the illustrations suggests a breezier ride than the scientifically challenging content delivers. With much reliance on explanatory endnotes, Rooney sends her zippy narrator—newly freed from a popped balloon (see Eddie the Electron, 2015)—barreling its way past billions of nitrogen and oxygen atoms to the top of the atmosphere. Eddie describes how uranium and thorium trapped in the newly formed planet’s crust self-destructed to leave helium as a stable byproduct. Billions of tedious years later (“I thought I would die of pair annihilation!”) that helium was extracted for a wide variety of industrial uses. Following mentions of Einstein and how Eddie is mysteriously connected to other atoms “in a way that surpasses space and time,” the popeyed purple particle floats off with a plea to cut down on the party balloons to conserve a rare element. Younger readers may find this last notion easier to latch onto than the previous dose of physics, which is seriously marred both by the vague allusions and by Eddie’s identification as a helium atom rather than the free electron that his portrayals in the art, not to mention his moniker, indicate.

A sketchy teaser in search of an audience. (Informational picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-944995-14-0

Page Count: 27

Publisher: Amberjack Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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