Sketchy but not (quite) as bland as it seems.


From the Turn and Learn series

An overview of weather and its causes, with pull-tab scenes that switch back and forth.

In neatly squared-off bursts of facts and general observations the survey opens with a look at the sun’s origin and effects. On successive thematic spreads it then introduces rain, wind, snow and ice, and finally thunder and lightning. Along with being a bit vague on the difference between weather and climate, Otter frequently oversimplifies—claiming, for instance, on the same leaf that a lightning bolt “travels downward” and that negative atmospheric charges anthropomorphically “search for” and “sense” positive ones. She does offer at least basic references to weather norms and extremes, spiced with specific temperature and wind speed records or other statistics, plus brief explanations of important concepts such as the water cycle, acid rain, and even the “Goldilocks Zone.” Tolson goes for stylized nature scenes in her simple cartoon pictures; some of the rare, small human figures seem to have dark skin. The front cover and each verso feature a larger illustration that is transformed by the pull of a ribbon…usually in an innocuous change from, for example, daytime to night, but in one disquieting instance showing a tornado-threatened family packing up a car that is next seen flying through the air.

Sketchy but not (quite) as bland as it seems. (Informational novelty. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61067-897-1

Page Count: 10

Publisher: Kane Miller

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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Energetic enough to carry younger rocketeers off the launch pad if not into a very high orbit.


From the Professor Astro Cat series

The bubble-helmeted feline explains what rockets do and the role they have played in sending people (and animals) into space.

Addressing a somewhat younger audience than in previous outings (Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space, 2013, etc.), Astro Cat dispenses with all but a light shower of “factoroids” to describe how rockets work. A highly selective “History of Space Travel” follows—beginning with a crew of fruit flies sent aloft in 1947, later the dog Laika (her dismal fate left unmentioned), and the human Yuri Gagarin. Then it’s on to Apollo 11 in 1969; the space shuttles Discovery, Columbia, and Challenger (the fates of the latter two likewise elided); the promise of NASA’s next-gen Orion and the Space Launch System; and finally vague closing references to other rockets in the works for local tourism and, eventually, interstellar travel. In the illustrations the spacesuited professor, joined by a mouse and cat in similar dress, do little except float in space and point at things. Still, the art has a stylish retro look, and portraits of Sally Ride and Guion Bluford diversify an otherwise all-white, all-male astronaut corps posing heroically or riding blocky, geometric spacecraft across starry reaches.

Energetic enough to carry younger rocketeers off the launch pad if not into a very high orbit. (glossary) (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-911171-55-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Flying Eye Books

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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More-conventional versions will be more likely to keep readers hooked.


An old Irish tale retold, featuring a renowned poet/teacher, a young warrior-in-training, and a very special fish.

It all begins when a salmon eats nine windfallen hazelnuts, thus acquiring “all the knowledge and secrets of the world.” Knowing that one taste of the salmon will transmit all that, “wise poet” Finnegas sets to fishing, eventually catches it, and orders his student Fionn to cook it without taking a single bite—only to be disappointed when Fionn burns himself on a drop of fat and reflexively puts his thumb in his mouth. Buckley offers a decidedly offbeat rendition of this popular tale, with dinosaur skeletons in one of her naïve-style collage scenes and a droll set of goals for warrior training that includes running beneath a knee-high branch. She also places Finnegas, in essence a bit player, in the forefront of a legend that’s really (and with stronger logic) been about the great hero Finn McCool since its earliest recorded versions. Unfortunately, the author seems to lose both interest and attention at the end. Following his climactic letdown (which is marred by a typo), Finnegas just drops abruptly out of view. Even a closing line about how the story’s now told far and wide dubs it only “Fionn and the Salmon of Knowledge.” There is no source note.

More-conventional versions will be more likely to keep readers hooked. (Picture book/folktale. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-76036-070-2

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Starfish Bay

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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