Not a story of salvation but a work in progress, ably explained.

THE GREAT BEAR RESCUE

SAVING THE GOBI BEARS

From the Sandra Markle's Science Discoveries series

A highly endangered strain of grizzly bears, protected and supported by the Mongolian government in their Gobi Desert home, may slowly be coming back.

Markle clearly and efficiently introduces a bear unfamiliar to most North American readers, its equally unfamiliar environment, and an international effort to save a species. Her long experience in writing about science for young readers shows in the careful crafting and pacing of her exposition. She frames her narrative with an individual bear’s difficult choice: between feared humans and essential water. She provides the necessary background (including three helpful maps), describing the bears, their desert world, and the international team of Mongolian and Western researchers and citizens who have worked to preserve habitat and provide food. Thoughtful design helps readers track the exposition and identify the side topics. Well-chosen and -captioned photographs from a variety of sources show the bears, other native wildlife, researchers, local farmers and children, and even the “ninja miners” (as they’re known in Mongolia) whose illegal search for gold threatens the progress that’s been made to save a species uniquely adapted for this harsh environment. (There may be only 40 Gobi bears remaining.) The writer concludes with a quote from scientist Harry Reynolds (a White American researcher), who describes his work as “continuing to give the bears a chance,” and a single page reminding readers that “Polar Bears Need Help Too.” (This book was reviewed digitally with 9.75-by-19.5-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Not a story of salvation but a work in progress, ably explained. (author's note, timeline, glossary, source notes, further information, index, photo acknowledgments) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5415-8125-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Millbrook/Lerner

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Pretty but insubstantial.

THE BIG BOOK OF BIRDS

Zommer surveys various bird species from around the world in this oversized (almost 14 inches tall tall) volume.

While exuberantly presented, the information is not uniformly expressed from bird to bird, which in the best cases will lead readers to seek out additional information and in the worst cases will lead to frustration. For example, on spreads that feature multiple species, the birds are not labeled. This happens again later when the author presents facts about eggs: Readers learn about camouflaged eggs, but the specific eggs are not identified, making further study extremely difficult. Other facts are misleading: A spread on “city birds” informs readers that “peregrine falcons nest on skyscrapers in New York City”—but they also nest in other large cities. In a sexist note, a peahen is identified as “unlucky” because she “has drab brown feathers” instead of flashy ones like the peacock’s. Illustrations are colorful and mostly identifiable but stylized; Zommer depicts his birds with both eyes visible at all times, even when the bird is in profile. The primary audience for the book appears to be British, as some spreads focus on European birds over their North American counterparts, such as the mute swan versus the trumpeter swan and the European robin versus the American robin. The backmatter, a seven-word glossary and an index, doesn’t provide readers with much support.

Pretty but insubstantial. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-500-65151-3

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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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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