Facts and fancy combine for a planetary road trip to remember.

BRAINS ON! PRESENTS...ROAD TRIP EARTH

EXPLORE OUR AWESOME PLANET, FROM CORE TO SHORE AND SO MUCH MORE

The three hosts of the award-winning science podcast Brains On! invite young readers to tag along as they journey to the center of the Earth.

In their state-of-the-art minivan (reminiscent of Joanna Cole’s Magic School Bus), the authors travel across land and water and into the air to investigate “remote realms.” For each trip, they pack helpful tools and snacks appropriate to their destination. Chapter by chapter, they explore the Earth’s layers and tectonic plates; deep-sea wonders and “the wide world of water”; sand, soil, and land formations; and, finally, the atmosphere, weather, and outer space. The chatty, informally written text invites readers to enjoy their discoveries. Children may groan at the cheesy jokes, but their attention will be held by the lively visual presentation that includes panels, mystery photos, graphic sidebars, and more. Recurring “Break It Down” text boxes unpack some scientific terms. Food metaphors and wordplay abound, aiding retention of facts and concepts. The often amusing cartoony illustrations, rendered digitally, feature caricatures of the three apparently White podcast hosts. Other characters with varying skin tones occasionally appear. As a broad overview of earth science, this works, though more knowledgeable readers may find it more of a smorgasbord than a four-course meal. The backmatter includes a list of relevant podcast episodes, a selected bibliography, and an index. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Facts and fancy combine for a planetary road trip to remember. (Nonfiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-45936-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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Contentwise, an arbitrary assortment…but sure to draw fans of comics, of science, or of both.

FLASH FACTS

Flash, Batman, and other characters from the DC Comics universe tackle supervillains and STEM-related topics and sometimes, both.

Credited to 20 writers and illustrators in various combinations, the 10 episodes invite readers to tag along as Mera and Aquaman visit oceanic zones from epipelagic to hadalpelagic; Supergirl helps a young scholar pick a science-project topic by taking her on a tour of the solar system; and Swamp Thing lends Poison Ivy a hand to describe how DNA works (later joining Swamp Kid to scuttle a climate-altering scheme by Arcane). In other episodes, various costumed creations explain the ins and outs of diverse large- and small-scale phenomena, including electricity, atomic structure, forensic techniques, 3-D printing, and the lactate threshold. Presumably on the supposition that the characters will be more familiar to readers than the science, the minilectures tend to start from simple basics, but the figures are mostly both redrawn to look more childlike than in the comics and identified only in passing. Drawing styles and page designs differ from chapter to chapter but not enough to interrupt overall visual unity and flow—and the cast is sufficiently diverse to include roles for superheroes (and villains) of color like Cyborg, Kid Flash, and the Latina Green Lantern, Jessica Cruz. Appended lists of websites and science-based YouTube channels, plus instructions for homespun activities related to each episode, point inspired STEM-winders toward further discoveries.

Contentwise, an arbitrary assortment…but sure to draw fans of comics, of science, or of both. (Graphic nonfiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77950-382-4

Page Count: 160

Publisher: DC

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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Like oil itself, this is a book that needs to be handled with special care.

OIL

In 1977, the oil carrier Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of oil into a formerly pristine Alaskan ocean inlet, killing millions of birds, animals, and fish. Despite a cleanup, crude oil is still there.

The Winters foretold the destructive powers of the atomic bomb allusively in The Secret Project (2017), leaving the actuality to the backmatter. They make no such accommodations to young audiences in this disturbing book. From the dark front cover, on which oily blobs conceal a seabird, to the rescuer’s sad face on the back, the mother-son team emphasizes the disaster. A relatively easy-to-read and poetically heightened text introduces the situation. Oil is pumped from the Earth “all day long, all night long, / day after day, year after year” in “what had been unspoiled land, home to Native people // and thousands of caribou.” The scale of extraction is huge: There’s “a giant pipeline” leading to “enormous ships.” Then, crash. Rivers of oil gush out over three full-bleed wordless pages. Subsequent scenes show rocks, seabirds, and sea otters covered with oil. Finally, 30 years later, animals have returned to a cheerful scene. “But if you lift a rock… // oil / seeps / up.” For an adult reader, this is heartbreaking. How much more difficult might this be for an animal-loving child?

Like oil itself, this is a book that needs to be handled with special care. (author’s note, further reading) (Informational picture book. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3077-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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