Nourishing fare for readers with a burning need to know.

CAN YOU HEAR A PENGUIN FART ON MARS?

AND OTHER EXCELLENT QUESTIONS

From the Jop and Blip Wanna Know series , Vol. 1

Two robots discuss some of life’s big questions.

There’s as much going on between the lines here as in them. Big Jop’s response to little Blip’s titular penguin query—“I’ve never heard a better question about one”—demonstrates the respect that any and every query from a child merits, and the two go on to consider logically what it would take to get a penguin (for instance) to Mars. Following this, the two chew over a range of topics, including the origin of sandwiches, why we have two nostrils, the epistemological implications of a belief in dragons, and the story of the blind men and the elephant. (Jop: “You can be kind of right about something…and kind of wrong about something at the same time.”) It all serves to underscore the notion that even—or perhaps especially—silly questions are always worth asking. Benton presents this profound exchange in plain language and panels of deceptively simple cartoon depictions of, say, guts (funny as well as relevant!) and comically overdone reaction shots. Jop and Blip vaguely resemble popeyed versions of C-3PO and R2-D2, and if the three blind, white-bearded men are identical except for having pink, brown, and yellow skin, the other human figures throughout generally vary in features as well as skin tone. An activity page closes each chapter (one is a maze that challenges readers to trace a hot dog through the digestive tract of a penguin).

Nourishing fare for readers with a burning need to know. (Graphic nonfiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-297292-7

Page Count: 96

Publisher: HarperAlley

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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A classic story of outsiders making friends—with a little something more.

LONG DISTANCE

After moving to a new city, a girl attends a wilderness camp to help her make new friends.

When astronomy-obsessed 9-year-old Vega’s dad Wes gets a new job, the family moves from Portland to Seattle. Vega is not happy about this change and doesn’t want to leave her best friend behind, worrying they will grow apart. Vega’s dad Javi thinks making new friends will help her adjust, so he signs her up for Camp Very Best Friend, which is designed to help introverted local children build new friendships. Vega is not exactly eager to go but makes a deal with Wes, agreeing to try out camp as long as he tries to make a new friend too. It quickly becomes clear that this is no ordinary outdoor adventure, and Vega and her fellow campers try to figure out what is really going on. The story smoothly incorporates STEM facts with insets on the page to define and highlight terms or tools. An unexpected twist toward the end of this fast-paced adventure that reveals the truth behind the camp will surprise readers. The clean, bright artwork is enhanced by panels of varying shapes and clear, easy-to-follow speech bubbles. Race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation are not explicitly addressed; characters’ names and physical appearances indicate a broadly diverse cast starting with brown-skinned Vega and her two dads.

A classic story of outsiders making friends—with a little something more. (Graphic fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-5566-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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A bubble-gum crowd pleaser with wide audience appeal.

OLGA AND THE SMELLY THING FROM NOWHERE

From the Olga series , Vol. 1

A young girl who prefers science to people discovers an adorable and smelly little creature.

With an inquisitive mind and a dark teardrop-shaped swoop of hair, Olga may not have many friends, but she loves animals and thinks even their "farts are cute." She studies them and carefully transcribes her observations; she hopes someday to hang out with Jane Goodall. When she hears a scary rumble in her trash can, Olga discovers Meh, a pudgy, smelly creature that she describes as a "cross between an inflated hamster and a potato drawn by a three-year-old." Like any good scientist-in-training, she observes Meh, trying to discern his habits and his diet. When Meh goes missing, Olga must recruit actual people to help her find him—including two pop-star–obsessed girls she calls "The Lalas," a friendly boy with a tall scribble of hair and an incontinent dog, a punk-rock librarian, and a goofy but helpful shopkeeper. Gravel's tale is a visually interesting mix of illustration and story, punctuated by numerous lists, comic panels, and cartoon diagrams and led by a smart female protagonist. Covering everything from zoology to poop jokes, Gravel has painted her tale with a broad brush that should render this an easy sell to most young readers. The human characters all have paper-white skin, and there is no other cueing of racial difference.

A bubble-gum crowd pleaser with wide audience appeal. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-235126-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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