There’s a lot to love here for readers who can look past those pronouns.

TREES

A book of poetry that celebrates trees.

Each double-page spread has a nonrhyming poem about a specific type of tree accompanied by art showing the tree in its environment. The first spread is the only one divergent from the pattern, with this pleasant, succinct introduction: “Each tree offers / a story / a clue / a dance / that makes it / its very own / self.” These words show up clearly in white against a gray-green late-autumn background. Different varieties of trees along with several people can be seen from an aerial view as bright leaves swirl about. There is a feeling of exuberance. Throughout the well-laid-out book, the art, a skilled merging of printmaking and digital techniques, deftly complements the text, using facts about each tree to create divergent moods—including a surprisingly foreboding mood at the end. Language is elegant and accessible, with personification as the useful, key poetic device. One significant shortcoming: Every tree-descriptive poem but the final two contains a gender-specific—and often stereotypical—pronoun. Some of the funnier poems require gender for their imagery, such as imagining a scraggly white pine as an “unruly uncle.” However, unnecessarily, the musical maple offers “her” sap after a long, dark winter; “Silly Palm” wears all “her” leaves on top; the mighty oak is, of course, male. Fortunately, the art for each tree is realistic, if stylized. If the aspen danced on its “tippy toes,” readers would still see the same tree swaying in the wind.

There’s a lot to love here for readers who can look past those pronouns. (Picture book/poetry. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4814-4707-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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This charming star shines bright.

THE SUN IS KIND OF A BIG DEAL

A humorous introduction to our sun and the solar system.

Webcomic creator Seluk aquaints readers with the sun (sporting a sly grin and a cool pair of shades) and its position as both the literal and metaphorical star of the solar system. Readers are introduced to the planets’ general relationships to the sun before diving deeper into the Earth’s unique reliance on the sun: “It does a ton of important jobs for Earth. In fact, we wouldn’t be around without the Sun!” The book explores everything from the effects of Earth’s rotation on our planet’s temperatures, daylight, and seasons to the water cycle and photosynthesis with clear and friendly prose. The planets’ characterizations are silly and irreverent: Venus wears a visor, Saturn is a hula-hoop champ, and Jupiter desperately wants an autograph but pretends it’s for one of its moons. Speech-bubble asides and simple but expressive faces and arm postures add to the celestial bodies’ personalities. Bright colors, contrasting backgrounds, and bold lines are engaging but never overwhelming. Vocabulary words set in boldface are tied to a glossary in the back. Backmatter also includes a gossip-magazine–style spread (“Planets: They’re Just Like Us!”) and a “Did You Know” section that highlights ancient civilizations’ beliefs about the sun.

This charming star shines bright. (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-16697-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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A good overview of this complex, essential organ, with an energetic seasoning of silliness.

THE BRAIN IS KIND OF A BIG DEAL

An introduction to the lead guitar and vocalist for the Brainiacs—the human brain.

The brain (familiar to readers of Seluk’s “The Awkward Yeti” webcomic, which spun off the adult title Heart and Brain, 2015) looks like a dodgeball with arms and legs—pinkish, sturdy, and roundish, with a pair of square-framed spectacles bestowing an air of importance and hipness. Other organs of the body—tongue, lungs, stomach, muscle, and heart—are featured as members of the brain’s rock band (the verso of the dust jacket is a poster of the band). Seluk’s breezy, conversational prose and brightly colored, boldly outlined cartoon illustrations deliver basic information. The brain’s role in keeping the heart beating and other automatic functions, directing body movements, interpreting sights and sounds, remembering smells and tastes, and regulating sleep and hunger are all explained, prose augmented by dialogue balloons and information sidebars. Seluk points out, importantly, that feelings originate in the brain: “You can control how you react…but your feelings happen no matter what.” The parodied album covers on the front endpapers (including the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Green Day, Run DMC, Queen, Nirvana) will amuse parents—or at least grandparents—and the rear endpapers serve up band members’ clever social media and texting screenshots. Backmatter includes a glossary and further brain trivia but no resources or bibliography.

A good overview of this complex, essential organ, with an energetic seasoning of silliness. (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-16700-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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