In this very thinly disguised science lesson, a pair of freckle-faced, entirely wholesome-looking young detectives take on two cases at once: finding the Mayor’s missing Pekingese, and joining the hunt for the elusive “dark matter” that scientists posit to explain the universe’s large-scale gravitational behavior. Focusing mainly on the latter, Stella and her little brother Max start at a (books-only) library, then peer through a telescope, snoop around researcher Bella Black’s lab and finally join her in an underground detection facility. In the course of all this, they (and readers) learn about MACHOs (MAssive Compact Halo Objects), WIMPs (Weakly Interacting Massive Particles) and how these enigmatic phenomena were discovered. The dog shows up at the end (sharp-eyed observers will have already spotted it, as it’s been following them around since nearly the beginning), so one case, at least, winds up closed. For readers inclined to carry on with the more cosmic one, Latta ends her story/lecture with a recap and a pair of well-chosen websites. Despite the superfluous plotline, this wins high marks for its clear, specific introduction to one of modern astronomy’s great puzzles. (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-57091-883-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2005

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A floral fantasia for casual browsers as well as budding botanists.


Spirited illustrations brighten a large-format introduction to flowers and their pollinators.

Showing a less Eurocentric outlook than in his Big Book of Birds (2019), Zommer employs agile brushwork and a fondness for graceful lines and bright colors to bring to life bustling bouquets from a range of habitats, from rainforest to desert. Often switching from horizontal to vertical orientations, the topical spreads progress from overviews of major floral families and broad looks at plant anatomy and reproduction to close-ups of select flora—roses and tulips to Venus flytraps and stinking flowers. The book then closes with a shoutout to the conservators and other workers at Kew Gardens (this is a British import) and quick suggestions for young balcony or windowsill gardeners. In most of the low-angled scenes, fancifully drawn avian or insect pollinators with human eyes hover around all the large, luscious blooms, as do one- or two-sentence comments that generally add cogent observations or insights: “All parts of the deadly nightshade plant contain poison. It has been used to poison famous emperors, kings and warriors throughout history.” (Confusingly for the audience, the accurate but limited assertion that bees “often visit blue or purple flowers” appears to be contradicted by an adjacent view of several zeroing in on a yellow toadflax.) Human figures, or, in one scene, hands, are depicted in a variety of sizes, shapes, and skin colors.

A floral fantasia for casual browsers as well as budding botanists. (glossary, index) (Informational picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-500-65199-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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The Pumpkin Book (32 pp.; $16.95; Sept. 15; 0-8234-1465-5): From seed to vine and blossom to table, Gibbons traces the growth cycle of everyone’s favorite autumn symbol—the pumpkin. Meticulous drawings detail the transformation of tiny seeds to the colorful gourds that appear at roadside stands and stores in the fall. Directions for planting a pumpkin patch, carving a jack-o’-lantern, and drying the seeds give young gardeners the instructions they need to grow and enjoy their own golden globes. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 1999

ISBN: 0-8234-1465-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999

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