Anecdotal, loopily organized, but engaging. And chewy! (glossary, acknowledgments, endnotes with resources, index)...

THE SLOWEST BOOK EVER

Sayre beckons kids to investigate and ruminate on slow-moving animals, slow-growing plants, slow motion, and plenty more.

In loosely arranged sections, the author adopts a conversational style to both inform and amuse curious students. She covers expected topics, such as the centuries-old sequoia tree, the land snail, and slow-forming geologic wonders like the Grand Canyon. But refreshing, often fleeting twists of topic, delivered with repeated exhortations for kids to slow down, ponder, and study, combine for a galloping volume that respects children as capable scientific thinkers. Sayre examines time’s effect on natural materials, from the Statue of Liberty’s copper to the erosion of gravestones. The origins of the air and water that compose human bodies get a look, as does the biology of intentionally slow practices such as tai chi and yoga. The concept of “slow” in art and culture—evidenced in the slow-food movement, the art of bonsai, and John Cage’s composition “As Slow as Possible” (which will last about 639 years)—is playfully introduced. Current scientists and their work are interwoven. Murphy’s cartoonish illustrations provide more humor than elucidation. The whole shebang winds up in outer space, where Sayre introduces concepts like light-years and dark matter and calls on kids to think “big, slow, chewy thoughts” about the expanding universe.

Anecdotal, loopily organized, but engaging. And chewy! (glossary, acknowledgments, endnotes with resources, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62091-783-1

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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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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A stimulating outing to the furthest reaches of our knowledge, certain to inspire deep thoughts.

YOUR PLACE IN THE UNIVERSE

From a Caldecott and Sibert honoree, an invitation to take a mind-expanding journey from the surface of our planet to the furthest reaches of the observable cosmos.

Though Chin’s assumption that we are even capable of understanding the scope of the universe is quixotic at best, he does effectively lead viewers on a journey that captures a sense of its scale. Following the model of Kees Boeke’s classic Cosmic View: The Universe in Forty Jumps (1957), he starts with four 8-year-old sky watchers of average height (and different racial presentations). They peer into a telescope and then are comically startled by the sudden arrival of an ostrich that is twice as tall…and then a giraffe that is over twice as tall as that…and going onward and upward, with ellipses at each page turn connecting the stages, past our atmosphere and solar system to the cosmic web of galactic superclusters. As he goes, precisely drawn earthly figures and features in the expansive illustrations give way to ever smaller celestial bodies and finally to glimmering swirls of distant lights against gulfs of deep black before ultimately returning to his starting place. A closing recap adds smaller images and additional details. Accompanying the spare narrative, valuable side notes supply specific lengths or distances and define their units of measure, accurately explain astronomical phenomena, and close with the provocative observation that “the observable universe is centered on us, but we are not in the center of the entire universe.”

A stimulating outing to the furthest reaches of our knowledge, certain to inspire deep thoughts. (afterword, websites, further reading) (Informational picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4623-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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