Though well-meaning, this vague profile doesn't quite capture either Hawking's groundbreaking career or his full humanity.



A glance at the life of English theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking

Growing up in a bookish family, Stephen was always asking questions. At 12, he pondered the origin of the universe. At 17, he attended Oxford University, where he began losing control of his body. At 21, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive neuromuscular disease, and given two years to live. Though his condition deteriorated, eventually requiring him to use a wheelchair and an augmentative communication device, he defied his grim prognosis by decades. In 1974, his discovery that black holes leaked radiation earned him international acclaim and led him to write the bestselling A Brief History of Time. Active and inquisitive until his death at 76, he researched life on other planets and advocated for disability rights. Kulikov’s scratchy illustrations cleverly acknowledge Hawking’s research, turning such everyday objects as a spinning LP and spilled tea into eye-catching black holes. However, the authors’ lack of specificity blurs Hawking’s accomplishments; for instance, his “important university job once held by genius scientist Isaac Newton”—Cambridge University’s prestigious Lucasian Professor of Mathematics position—is unnamed. Such down-to-earth details as Hawking’s family, humor, and penchant for parties are unfortunately eclipsed by cloying disability clichés declaring him “a triumphant life force, almost otherworldly,” whose brilliant mind was “trapped within his powerless body.” Kulikov depicts a seemingly all-white cast.

Though well-meaning, this vague profile doesn't quite capture either Hawking's groundbreaking career or his full humanity. (author's note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-399-55028-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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Blandly laudatory.


From the Ordinary People Change the World series

The iconic animator introduces young readers to each “happy place” in his life.

The tally begins with his childhood home in Marceline, Missouri, and climaxes with Disneyland (carefully designed to be “the happiest place on Earth”), but the account really centers on finding his true happy place, not on a map but in drawing. In sketching out his early flubs and later rocket to the top, the fictive narrator gives Ub Iwerks and other Disney studio workers a nod (leaving his labor disputes with them unmentioned) and squeezes in quick references to his animated films, from Steamboat Willie to Winnie the Pooh (sans Fantasia and Song of the South). Eliopoulos incorporates stills from the films into his cartoon illustrations and, characteristically for this series, depicts Disney as a caricature, trademark mustache in place on outsized head even in childhood years and child sized even as an adult. Human figures default to white, with occasional people of color in crowd scenes and (ahistorically) in the animation studio. One unidentified animator builds up the role-modeling with an observation that Walt and Mickey were really the same (“Both fearless; both resourceful”). An assertion toward the end—“So when do you stop being a child? When you stop dreaming”—muddles the overall follow-your-bliss message. A timeline to the EPCOT Center’s 1982 opening offers photos of the man with select associates, rodent and otherwise. An additional series entry, I Am Marie Curie, publishes simultaneously, featuring a gowned, toddler-sized version of the groundbreaking physicist accepting her two Nobel prizes.

Blandly laudatory. (bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2875-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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


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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