A grab bag of bio-wonders.



A ramble through “the totally bizarre, ultra-epic, sometimes disgusting world of biology.”

With unflagging zest the hosts of American Public Media’s Brains On! podcast take on dozens of such need-to-know topics as whether plants can perceive sound, “why…frogs’ tongues stretch so far,” why we dream, and “are dogs self-aware?” Along with introducing real scientists working in the actual Dog Cognition Lab and elsewhere, the authors—depicted as small cartoon figures throughout—cast sidelights on historical hoaxes, tuck in “mystery photo” close-ups, and also pair up lots of unlikely adversaries in smack-down–style contests. For the latter, they lay out facts about each and leave it to readers to judge winners: “Which stinker is cooler: Durian or Corpse Flower?” The survey includes breezy ventures into the animal and plant kingdoms, quick rides through select systems of the Bodyland amusement park, and a closing voyage to the teeming realm of microbiota for ganders at microscopic mites, fungi, and bacteria (but not viruses). Even scientifically savvy readers may find the small-print bibliography more than a bit on the technical and scholarly side. Still, it’s always better to challenge an audience than underestimate it. Recurring cast members in the illustrations present White; other cartoon figures include people of color.

A grab bag of bio-wonders. (index) (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-42829-3

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A coherent if unexceptional overview of the subject given a solid boost by the visuals.



Finely detailed cutaway views of spacecraft and satellites launch a broad account of space exploration’s past, present, and near future.

Jenkins begins with the journey of Voyager I, currently the “most distant man-made object ever,” then goes back to recap the history of astronomy, the space race, and the space-shuttle program. He goes on to survey major interplanetary probes and the proliferating swarm of near-Earth satellites, then closes with reflections on our current revived interest in visiting Mars and a brief mention of a proposed “space elevator.” This is all familiar territory, at least to well-read young skywatchers and would-be astronauts, and despite occasional wry observations (“For longer stays [in space], things to consider include staying fit and healthy, keeping clean, and not going insane”) it reads more like a digest than a vivid, ongoing story. Biesty’s eye for exact, precise detail is well in evidence in the illustrations, though, and if one spread of generic residents of the International Space Station is the only place his human figures aren’t all white and male, at least he offers riveting depictions of space gear and craft with every last scientific instrument and structural element visible and labeled.

A coherent if unexceptional overview of the subject given a solid boost by the visuals. (index, timeline, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8931-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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Enlightening, if not always easily legible, ruminations on the value of being in the dark.



Reflections on the ways that artificial light upsets patterns and behaviors in the natural world.

Galat (Stories of the Aurora,2016, etc.) spins childhood memories into semifictive reminiscences. Between recalling lying on her back in the snow at 10 to trace the Big Dipper and describing links between light pollution and several environmental issues as a grown-up naturalist, the author recalls camping trips and other excursions at various ages. These offer, at least tangentially, insights into how artificial lighting could affect nocturnal insects, sea turtle hatchlings, bats, and migratory birds, as well as the general hunting, mating, and nesting behaviors of animals. She closes, after a quick mention of scotobiology (the study of life in darkness), with a plea to turn off the lights whenever possible. Though she does not support this general appeal with specific practices or, for that matter, source notes for her information, she does offer a list of internet search terms for readers who want to explore the topic further. Despite illustrations that range from a close-up of a road-kill raccoon to pointless filler and passages that, paradoxically, are hard to read except in bright light because they’re printed over speckled fields of stars, this outing covers a topic that should be of interest to young stargazers and scotobiologists alike.

Enlightening, if not always easily legible, ruminations on the value of being in the dark. (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-88995-515-8

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Red Deer Press

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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