An informative and entertaining title for aspiring young scientists.

STARSTRUCK

THE COSMIC JOURNEY OF NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON

An introduction to the brilliant African-American astrophysicist who, from an early age, found his passion in the skies.

This biography tells of Tyson’s childhood in the Bronx, where he walked dogs to earn money for his first big telescope, through which he viewed the stars from the rooftop of his apartment building, the aptly named Skyview. Mistaking the telescope for a rifle, neighbors often called the police, but Tyson would win the cops over by showing them the stars or his favorite planet, Saturn. The nearby Hayden Planetarium became an important educational space for Tyson, opening up opportunities such as an ocean-liner trip to the northwest African coast with 2,000 scientists to observe a solar eclipse when he was just 14. Attending the Bronx High School of Science, Tyson excelled in science but also in dance and wrestling. After attending Harvard, he returned home to work at Hayden Planetarium, the place where he first glimpsed the stars. Along with other astrophysicists, Tyson remapped the solar system, reclassifying Pluto as a dwarf planet. While the authors’ informative, enthusiastic telling keeps readers interested in Tyson’s nerdy and passionate pursuit of deeper knowledge about all things celestial, the illustrations border on caricature at times and, perhaps as a result, create many inconsistencies in Tyson’s appearance. The recurring starry backgrounds, however, successfully emphasize the importance of stars in Tyson’s life.

An informative and entertaining title for aspiring young scientists. (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-55024-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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Informative yet optimistic, this cri du coeur from Planet Awesome deserves wide attention.

OUR PLANET! THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE EARTH

From the Our Universe series , Vol. 6

The sixth in McAnulty’s Our Universe series focuses on Earth’s human-caused problems, offering some family-level activities for mitigation.

Vivaciously narrated by “Planet Awesome,” the text establishes facts about how Earth’s location with regard to the sun allows life to flourish, the roles of the ocean and atmosphere, and the distinctions between weather and climate. McAnulty clearly explains how people have accelerated climate change “because so many human things need energy.” Soft-pedaling, she avoids overt indictment of fossil fuels: “Sometimes energy leads to dirty water, dirty land, and dirty air.” Dire changes are afoot: “Some land is flooding. Other land is too dry—and hot. YIKES! Not good.” “And when I’m in trouble, Earthlings are in trouble, too.” Litchfield’s engaging art adds important visual information where the perky text falls short. On one spread, a factory complex spews greenhouse gases in three plumes, each identified by the chemical symbols for carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. Throughout, planet Earth is appealingly represented with animated facial features and arms—one green, one blue. The palette brightens and darkens in sync with the text’s respective messages of hope and alarm. Final pages introduce alternative energy sources—wind, hydro, solar, and “human power—that’s from your own two feet.” Lastly, Earth provides excellent ideas for hyperlocal change, from buying less new stuff to planting trees. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Informative yet optimistic, this cri du coeur from Planet Awesome deserves wide attention. (author’s note, numerical facts, atmospheric facts, ideas for action, sources) (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-78249-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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A picture book more than worthy of sharing the shelf with Alan Schroeder and Jerry Pinkney’s Minty (1996) and Carole Boston...

BEFORE SHE WAS HARRIET

A memorable, lyrical reverse-chronological walk through the life of an American icon.

In free verse, Cline-Ransome narrates the life of Harriet Tubman, starting and ending with a train ride Tubman takes as an old woman. “But before wrinkles formed / and her eyes failed,” Tubman could walk tirelessly under a starlit sky. Cline-Ransome then describes the array of roles Tubman played throughout her life, including suffragist, abolitionist, Union spy, and conductor on the Underground Railroad. By framing the story around a literal train ride, the Ransomes juxtapose the privilege of traveling by rail against Harriet’s earlier modes of travel, when she repeatedly ran for her life. Racism still abounds, however, for she rides in a segregated train. While the text introduces readers to the details of Tubman’s life, Ransome’s use of watercolor—such a striking departure from his oil illustrations in many of his other picture books—reveals Tubman’s humanity, determination, drive, and hope. Ransome’s lavishly detailed and expansive double-page spreads situate young readers in each time and place as the text takes them further into the past.

A picture book more than worthy of sharing the shelf with Alan Schroeder and Jerry Pinkney’s Minty (1996) and Carole Boston Weatherford and Kadir Nelson’s Moses (2006). (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8234-2047-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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