A true tale of life in space, ably if not spectacularly spun.

SPIDERNAUT

ARABELLA, THE SPIDER IN SPACE

From the Animalographies series

The story of an experiment designed to answer a high school student’s question to NASA.

Told in first person—perhaps not the best choice as the arachnid narrator is called upon to describe her own death and subsequent events in the later going—the chronicle begins in 1972 with a query about whether spiders can spin webs in space. Popped into small tubes with dead flies for provisions, Arabella and another orb spider, Anita, were transported to Skylab 3 in 1973 and released into cages where, after a day or so of floating and a “wonky” preliminary effort, both actually produced creditable versions of their earthly webs. A better title for this might be Spiders in Space, because along with a tally of scientific findings, Arabella goes on post-mortem to describe several later visits to the International Space Station by various eight-legged relatives (one of whom, a Johnson jumping spider named Nefertiti, actually “made it home again” in 2012). “That’s one small step for man but one giant leap for spiders!” she concludes. The simple illustrations largely tend to close-ups of Arabella, and if all of the adults in view seem to be White, Kordić does tuck in one late scene of a racially diverse trio of modern young children comparing a “spidernaut” with a specimen in a classroom terrarium.

A true tale of life in space, ably if not spectacularly spun. (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8075-0441-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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A good overview of this complex, essential organ, with an energetic seasoning of silliness.

THE BRAIN IS KIND OF A BIG DEAL

An introduction to the lead guitar and vocalist for the Brainiacs—the human brain.

The brain (familiar to readers of Seluk’s “The Awkward Yeti” webcomic, which spun off the adult title Heart and Brain, 2015) looks like a dodgeball with arms and legs—pinkish, sturdy, and roundish, with a pair of square-framed spectacles bestowing an air of importance and hipness. Other organs of the body—tongue, lungs, stomach, muscle, and heart—are featured as members of the brain’s rock band (the verso of the dust jacket is a poster of the band). Seluk’s breezy, conversational prose and brightly colored, boldly outlined cartoon illustrations deliver basic information. The brain’s role in keeping the heart beating and other automatic functions, directing body movements, interpreting sights and sounds, remembering smells and tastes, and regulating sleep and hunger are all explained, prose augmented by dialogue balloons and information sidebars. Seluk points out, importantly, that feelings originate in the brain: “You can control how you react…but your feelings happen no matter what.” The parodied album covers on the front endpapers (including the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Green Day, Run DMC, Queen, Nirvana) will amuse parents—or at least grandparents—and the rear endpapers serve up band members’ clever social media and texting screenshots. Backmatter includes a glossary and further brain trivia but no resources or bibliography.

A good overview of this complex, essential organ, with an energetic seasoning of silliness. (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-16700-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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A winning heads up for younger readers just becoming aware of the wider natural world.

DON'T LET THEM DISAPPEAR

An appeal to share concern for 12 familiar but threatened, endangered, or critically endangered animal species.

The subjects of Marino’s intimate, close-up portraits—fairly naturalistically rendered, though most are also smiling, glancing up at viewers through human eyes, and posed at rest with a cute youngling on lap or flank—steal the show. Still, Clinton’s accompanying tally of facts about each one’s habitat and daily routines, to which the title serves as an ongoing refrain, adds refreshingly unsentimental notes: “A single giraffe kick can kill a lion!”; “[S]hivers of whale sharks can sense a drop of blood if it’s in the water nearby, though they eat mainly plankton.” Along with tucking in collective nouns for each animal (some not likely to be found in major, or any, dictionaries: an “embarrassment” of giant pandas?), the author systematically cites geographical range, endangered status, and assumed reasons for that status, such as pollution, poaching, or environmental change. She also explains the specific meaning of “endangered” and some of its causes before closing with a set of doable activities (all uncontroversial aside from the suggestion to support and visit zoos) and a list of international animal days to celebrate.

A winning heads up for younger readers just becoming aware of the wider natural world. (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51432-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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