Another terrific case study on the power of a big idea to work profound changes in our lives.

MACHINES THAT THINK!

From the Big Ideas That Changed the World series , Vol. 2

How rows of rocks evolved into the intricate circuitry that runs our homes, drives our cars, and orders our pizza.

Brown lets al-Khwārizmī, the Muslim mathematician who popularized Arabic/Hindu numbers (most notably, for Brown’s purposes here, “0” and “1”), take the role of tour guide. He squires readers through centuries of watershed developments from the abacus and mechanical Pascaline calculator to the punch cards of Joseph-Marie Jacquard, ENIAC, IBM, the transistor, and robots. Closing with an explanation of the Turing test, he offers a mildly cautionary view of the increasingly pervasive roles computers play in our daily lives (“will they be doing all the thinking for us?”) and an appended disquisition on binary numbers. Along the way he chronicles both major and incremental advances as well as offering nods to significant thinkers and doers familiar (Ada Lovelace, Steve Jobs) or otherwise—notably Jean Jennings and six other women charged with figuring out how to program ENIAC but not invited to its unveiling. Though he acknowledges in an afterword that his cast is largely White, European, and male he does what he can throughout to diversify it…and cogently observes at the end that the “domination of the West in the sciences has ended.” Panels are drawn in a loose style that lightens the substantial informational load.

Another terrific case study on the power of a big idea to work profound changes in our lives. (endnotes, timeline) (Graphic nonfiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4098-5

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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A change of pace from the typical blood-and-guts approach to the topic, populous enough to sate even the most rabid...

DINOSAUR EMPIRE!

JOURNEY THROUGH THE MESOZOIC ERA

From the Earth Before Us series , Vol. 1

A quick trip through the Mesozoic Era with a paleontologist is all young Ronnie needs to become a dino-maniac.

So desperate is Ronnie to better a dinosaur exam’s failing grade that she’s willing to follow her odd but scholarly neighbor Miss Lernin into a curbside recycling bin—which, thanks to “Science Magic,” leaves the two in the late Triassic. Between meeting plateosaurs on that stop and a cozy nuzzle with a T. rex in the late Cretaceous, Ronnie gets an earful about dinosaur anatomy, convergent evolution, types of prehistoric life, protofeathers and other recent discoveries, and (as Miss Lernin puts it) “the exciting world of…phylogenetic trees!!” But mostly what she gets are dinosaurs. The graphic panels teem with (labeled) prehistoric life including, along with dozens of dinos, many early mammals and other contemporaries. Howard depicts nearly all of this fauna with snub noses and such friendly expressions that in no time (so to speak) Ronnie is exclaiming “Oh my gosh…Jurassic crocodylomorphs were so cute!” Indeed, her white tutor agrees, but also cool, dangerous, and majestic. Ronnie, who is depicted as a black girl, returns to the present to earn a perfect score on a retaken test and go on to spread the dino-word to her diverse classmates. Though the lack of source or resource lists is disappointing, closing graphic recaps of major prehistoric creatures and, yes, a phylogenetic tree provide some review.

A change of pace from the typical blood-and-guts approach to the topic, populous enough to sate even the most rabid dinophiles. (glossary) (Graphic informational fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2306-3

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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This biography sometimes feels like a great song, so sad it can leave you joyous.

NATAN SHARANSKY

FREEDOM FIGHTER FOR SOVIET JEWS

Stories about heroes are almost always a little sad.

Like many activists, Natan Sharansky was punished nearly every time he fought for the goals he believed in. He was accused publicly of espionage by the Soviet authorities and spent years in prison and in labor camps, separated from his wife. The saddest part is that, for many people, his goals would have qualified as ordinary life: He wanted to live in Israel and practice his religion in the open. He eventually won those rights for himself and other Soviet Jews. Even after being locked up for close to a decade and completing several hunger strikes, he still had a remarkable sense of humor. While the dialogue captures emotional tenors well throughout, the most memorable lines in this graphic biography are often jokes he made. When KGB agents followed him into a taxi, he asked if they’d split the cab fare, and after years of constant surveillance, he said, “It’s like I have two shadows: one that is mine, and the other the KGB’s.” The text in the panels’ narrative boxes is less engaging, often coming across as boilerplate, but the pictures help to capture Sharansky’s personality. Though the likenesses—especially the pictures of presidents—aren’t always convincing, some of the drawings are vivid enough to look nearly alive. The historical figures in the illustrations are almost all light-skinned Soviets, Israelis, and Americans.

This biography sometimes feels like a great song, so sad it can leave you joyous. (timeline, glossary, reading list, historical notes) (Graphic biography. 8-11)

Pub Date: May 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5415-8899-8

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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