A rollicking reminder to reserve judgment before traveling in another’s orbit.

XO, EXOPLANET

What’s the difference between a planet and an exoplanet? Depends on your point of view.

Lacera kits Mercury out with a winged helmet, Neptune with a pool toy, and the other major planets (plus Pluto, for, the author admits, sentimental reasons) with like regalia, plus faces, adding jocular notes to this planetary parable on proper perspective. The action begins when the planets spot a new one orbiting another sun and send it a welcoming letter. Alas, hardly has this developed into a regular correspondence than a sharp difference of opinion arises—both sides insisting that no, they’re not the exoplanets, or, as Mars puts it: “Exoplanet SCHMECKSOPLANET! We’re planets!” A passing comet breaks the stalemate by pointing out that Earth looks like a big planet to Mercury but a small one to Jupiter and that Mars is hot compared to Uranus but cold next to Venus, causing the planets to realize that “It all depends on how you look at things.” One apologetic letter later, interstellar amity is restored. Underwood doesn’t make the underlying point about the value of tolerating differences here on Earth explicit, but even younger audiences should get the memo…when they are not giggling at the sight of the planets playing poker while they wait or Jupiter’s many smiling moons—or, more soberly, taking in the prodigious amount of space trash floating about. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A rollicking reminder to reserve judgment before traveling in another’s orbit. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5743-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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“It’s time to head back home,” the narrator concludes. “You’ve touched the Earth in so many ways.” Who knew it would be so...

TOUCH THE EARTH

From the Julian Lennon White Feather Flier Adventure series , Vol. 1

A pro bono Twinkie of a book invites readers to fly off in a magic plane to bring clean water to our planet’s oceans, deserts, and brown children.

Following a confusingly phrased suggestion beneath a soft-focus world map to “touch the Earth. Now touch where you live,” a shake of the volume transforms it into a plane with eyes and feathered wings that flies with the press of a flat, gray “button” painted onto the page. Pressing like buttons along the journey releases a gush of fresh water from the ground—and later, illogically, provides a filtration device that changes water “from yucky to clean”—for thirsty groups of smiling, brown-skinned people. At other stops, a tap on the button will “help irrigate the desert,” and touching floating bottles and other debris in the ocean supposedly makes it all disappear so the fish can return. The 20 children Coh places on a globe toward the end are varied of skin tone, but three of the four young saviors she plants in the flier’s cockpit as audience stand-ins are white. The closing poem isn’t so openly parochial, though it seldom rises above vague feel-good sentiments: “Love the Earth, the moon and sun. / All the children can be one.”

“It’s time to head back home,” the narrator concludes. “You’ve touched the Earth in so many ways.” Who knew it would be so easy to clean the place up and give everyone a drink? (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5107-2083-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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  • SPONSORED PLACEMENT

A visually striking, compelling recollection.

FROM THE TOPS OF THE TREES

The author recounts a formative childhood experience that continues to inspire her today.

Born to Hmong refugees, Kalia has only ever known the confines of the Ban Vinai refugee camp in Thailand. Even while playing with her cousins, reminders of the hardships of their life are always present. She overhears the aunties sharing their uncertainty and fear of the future. They are a people with no home country and are still trying to find peace. Kalia asks her father why they live behind a gate and wonders what lies beyond the fences that surround the camp. The next day they climb a tall tree, and he shows her the vast expanse around them, from familiar camp landmarks to distant mountains “where the sky meets earth.” This story of resilience and generational hope is told in an expressive, straightforward narrative style. The simplicity of the text adds a level of poignancy that moves readers to reflection. The layered and heavily textured illustrations complement the text while highlighting the humanity of the refugees and providing a quiet dignity to camp life. The militarylike color palette of olive greens, golden yellows, and rich browns reinforces the guarded atmosphere but also represents the transitional period from winter to spring, a time ripe with anticipation and promise.

A visually striking, compelling recollection. (author's note, glossary, map.) (Picture book/memoir. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5415-8130-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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Hurray for the underdog.

PLUTO GETS THE CALL

Heart (-shaped surface feature) literally broken by its demotion from planet status, Pluto glumly conducts readers on a tour of the solar system.

You’d be bummed, too. Angrily rejecting the suggestions of “mean scientists” from Earth that “ice dwarf” or “plutoid” might serve as well (“Would you like to be called humanoid?”), Pluto drifts out of the Kuiper Belt to lead readers past the so-called “real” planets in succession. All sport faces with googly eyes in Keller’s bright illustrations, and distinct personalities, too—but also actual physical characteristics (“Neptune is pretty icy. And gassy. I’m not being mean, he just is”) that are supplemented by pages of “fun facts” at the end. Having fended off Saturn’s flirtation, endured Jupiter’s stormy reception (“Keep OFF THE GAS!”) and relentless mockery from the asteroids, and given Earth the cold shoulder, Pluto at last takes the sympathetic suggestion of Venus and Mercury to talk to the Sun. “She’s pretty bright.” A (what else?) warm welcome, plus our local star’s comforting reminders that every celestial body is unique (though “people talk about Uranus for reasons I don’t really want to get into”), and anyway, scientists are still arguing the matter because that’s what “science” is all about, mend Pluto’s heart at last: “Whatever I’m called, I’ll always be PLUTO!”

Hurray for the underdog. (afterword) (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1453-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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