Readers familiar with this book will delight in a fresher-looking version, but overall and despite good intentions, it does...

THE POPCORN BOOK

40TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Curious, shaggy-haired twins Tony and Tiny learn about the history of popcorn while waiting for a pot of kernels to pop.

First published in 1978, this 40th-anniversary edition updates the depictions of Indigenous people and expands upon the presentation of historical facts as Tony gets a pan hot and ready for popcorn while Tiny tells his brother (and readers) about the history of the food. This version is cleaner and brighter, with more saturated colors and modern type. The European (French, Spanish, and English) colonizers’ perspective of popcorn history is de-emphasized, and more agency is given to Indigenous peoples. This version does a good job of including more Native Nation–specific facts about popcorn and its preparation, with lines such as, “The Ho-Chunk, also known as the Winnebago, were particularly fond of oiled popcorn on the cob.” That being said, even though Tony and Tiny, two white boys, live in the present, all references to Indigenous peoples are in the past; this was a missed opportunity to include present-day Indigenous peoples’ relationships to corn/popcorn. Also, the original stereotypical illustration of a brown-skinned, angry “little demon” inside a kernel is woefully present in this version, although the text has been edited to say “little man”; rather than the original “The Indian people had a legend,” the text now reads “Some people tell the story,” which implies that the origins of this “legend” are hazy.

Readers familiar with this book will delight in a fresher-looking version, but overall and despite good intentions, it does not completely rehabilitate the original’s flawed depictions of Indigenous peoples. (sources, resources) (Informational picture book. 5-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-82343985-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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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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An immersive dunk into a vast subject—and on course for shorter attention spans.

EVERYTHING AWESOME ABOUT SHARKS AND OTHER UNDERWATER CREATURES!

From the Everything Awesome About… series

In the wake of Everything Awesome About Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Beasts! (2019), Lowery spins out likewise frothy arrays of facts and observations about sharks, whales, giant squid, and smaller but no less extreme (or at least extremely interesting) sea life.

He provides plenty of value-added features, from overviews of oceanic zones and environments to jokes, drawing instructions, and portrait galleries suitable for copying or review. While not one to pass up any opportunity to, for instance, characterize ambergris as “whale vomit perfume” or the clownfish’s protective coating as “snot armor,” he also systematically introduces members of each of the eight orders of sharks, devotes most of a page to the shark’s electroreceptive ampullae of Lorenzini, and even sheds light on the unobvious differences between jellyfish and the Portuguese man-of-war or the reason why the blue octopus is said to have “arms” rather than “tentacles.” He also argues persuasively that sharks have gotten a bad rap (claiming that more people are killed each year by…vending machines) and closes with pleas to be concerned about plastic waste, to get involved in conservation efforts, and (cannily) to get out and explore our planet because (quoting Jacques-Yves Cousteau) “People protect what they love.” Human figures, some with brown skin, pop up occasionally to comment in the saturated color illustrations. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 45% of actual size.)

An immersive dunk into a vast subject—and on course for shorter attention spans. (bibliography, list of organizations) (Nonfiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-35973-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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