UH-OH, LEONARDO!

Sabuda (The Night Before Christmas, not reviewed, etc.) takes an uncharacteristic direction with this freewheeling tale of a young inventor cast back to the time of her hero, Leonardo Da Vinci. He follows Kevin Henkes’s lead in creating a cast of small, somewhat pop-eyed mice, but the settings and costuming, not to mention plot, are more elaborate. Having built a mouse-shaped robot from mirror-written plans found in her local library, Providence discovers that it’s also a time machine when a pair of mischievous mouselings switches it on. Arriving on the outskirts of Renaissance Florence, the terrible two scurry into town with the machine’s wind-up key, leaving Providence and her tagalong little brother to chase them down with the help of Leonardo, a smooth-talking ally. Pausing for full-spread side excursions into an artist’s studio and a printing office, plus glimpses of Florentine daily life and a lavish saint’s day celebration, the author sends his visitors from the future scurrying in various directions, then reunites them for a climactic face-off with an anti-science ecclesiastic, and a last-second rescue that sees them safely home. The mix of fact and fiction is less smooth, but in pace and general tone this resembles the Time Warp Trio series and readers with a yen to tinker will find kindred spirits in both Providence and the insatiably curious polymath after whom she’s modeled herself. (afterword) (Picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-689-81160-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere.

1001 BEES

This book is buzzing with trivia.

Follow a swarm of bees as they leave a beekeeper’s apiary in search of a new home. As the scout bees traverse the fields, readers are provided with a potpourri of facts and statements about bees. The information is scattered—much like the scout bees—and as a result, both the nominal plot and informational content are tissue-thin. There are some interesting facts throughout the book, but many pieces of trivia are too, well trivial, to prove useful. For example, as the bees travel, readers learn that “onion flowers are round and fluffy” and “fennel is a plant that is used in cooking.” Other facts are oversimplified and as a result are not accurate. For example, monofloral honey is defined as “made by bees who visit just one kind of flower” with no acknowledgment of the fact that bees may range widely, and swarm activity is described as a springtime event, when it can also occur in summer and early fall. The information in the book, such as species identification and measurement units, is directed toward British readers. The flat, thin-lined artwork does little to enhance the story, but an “I spy” game challenging readers to find a specific bee throughout is amusing.

Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere. (Informational picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-500-65265-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to...

ESCAPE FROM BAXTERS' BARN

A group of talking farm animals catches wind of the farm owner’s intention to burn the barn (with them in it) for insurance money and hatches a plan to flee.

Bond begins briskly—within the first 10 pages, barn cat Burdock has overheard Dewey Baxter’s nefarious plan, and by Page 17, all of the farm animals have been introduced and Burdock is sharing the terrifying news. Grady, Dewey’s (ever-so-slightly) more principled brother, refuses to go along, but instead of standing his ground, he simply disappears. This leaves the animals to fend for themselves. They do so by relying on their individual strengths and one another. Their talents and personalities match their species, bringing an element of realism to balance the fantasy elements. However, nothing can truly compensate for the bland horror of the premise. Not the growing sense of family among the animals, the serendipitous intervention of an unknown inhabitant of the barn, nor the convenient discovery of an alternate home. Meanwhile, Bond’s black-and-white drawings, justly compared to those of Garth Williams, amplify the sense of dissonance. Charming vignettes and single- and double-page illustrations create a pastoral world into which the threat of large-scale violence comes as a shock.

Ironically, by choosing such a dramatic catalyst, the author weakens the adventure’s impact overall and leaves readers to ponder the awkward coincidences that propel the plot. (Animal fantasy. 8-10)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-33217-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2015

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