Magnificent paper engineering, but the text and pictures don’t measure up.


Notes on our planet’s history and current state, with pop-up highlights.

The exploration begins with a layered 3-D globe that splits open to reveal a brilliant, foil-lined interior. It goes on to present a lush tableau of pond flora and fauna, a schematic of an erupting volcano with a saw-toothed sound effect, an explosion of playing cards (reflecting one of the narrative’s more fanciful images), and an Edenic tropical waterfall scene. Alas, Charbonnel’s five intricate pop-ups are the stars of a show that doesn’t have much else to recommend it. Buxton fills the pages with arbitrary-feeling arrays of creatures and things that are sometimes labeled and sometimes not, sometimes to scale and sometimes not, and sometimes only marginally relevant to the topic. This is most notable on a spread on climate peril that’s dominated by an oil tanker on fire surrounded by icebergs, fish skeletons, and fire boats. Jankeliowitch does no better, comparing the biosphere to a house of cards (see above) right after noting that it actually has a long history of recovering from extinction events and misinforming readers that the modern Earth is 6,000 years old, that volcanoes help to control our planet’s internal heat, and that in 5 or so billion years the Sun will “go out.” A group scene intended to depict human diversity includes only four that are not clad in casual Western attire; of those four, two are significantly exoticized.

Magnificent paper engineering, but the text and pictures don’t measure up. (Informational pop-up picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-500-65257-2

Page Count: 20

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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


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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Just the ticket for mechanically curious kids.



A detachable acetate eyepiece lets budding engineers peek into buildings, the inner workings of vehicles from bicycles to submarines, and even a human torso.

Peering through the colored spyglass embedded in the front cover at Lozano’s cartoon scenes makes large areas of red stippling or crosshatching disappear, revealing electrical wiring and other infrastructure in or under buildings, robots at work on an assembly line, the insides of a jet and a container ship, and other hidden areas or facilities. Though younger viewers will get general pictures of how, for instance, internal-combustion (but not electric) cars are propelled, what MRIs and ultrasound scans reveal, and the main steps in printing and binding books, overall the visual detail is radically simplified in Lozano’s assemblages of cartoon images. Likewise, the sheaves of descriptive captions are light on specifics—noting that airplane wings create lift but neglecting to explain just how, say, or why maglev train magnets are supercooled. Still, Wilsher introduces simple machines at the outset (five of the six, anyway), and the ensuing selection of complex ones is current enough to include a spy drone and Space X’s Falcon 9 rocket. Along with displaying a range of skin tones, the human cast of machine users visible in most scenes includes an astronomer wearing a hijab. All in all, it’s a revealing, if sketchy, roll toward David Macaulay’s The Way Things Work Now (2016).

Just the ticket for mechanically curious kids. (Informational novelty. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-912920-20-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: What on Earth Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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