An honest, inspiring STEM-focused story starring an incredibly relatable future scientist.

WHIZ KID

From the Miles Lewis series , Vol. 2

A science fair can bring out the best in us…and the worst.

Miles Lewis, a smart aspiring scientist, considers this year’s science fair a second chance. Since his electrical switch didn’t get him to the regional competition last year, he vows to create a winner this year. When his teacher allows the students to work in groups, Miles chooses to work with Jada, but the team expands as their friends join. As they plan, Miles realizes how hard it can be to collaborate with others. It gets tougher when his cousin Cameron, who made it to the regional competition last year, visits and Miles’ team likes Cam’s scientific ideas more than his. Although Miles knows that Cam is adjusting to his parents’ separation, he struggles with jealousy of Cam. The team’s Marvelous Marble Grand Prix, a marble racetrack that illustrates how energy works, teaches Miles a lot about himself and how to be a better friend, cousin, and team member. This is a warm, inviting tale with a realistically flawed protagonist whom many readers will see themselves in. Miles’ close-knit family offers support throughout: Momma tells him not to be so hard on himself; Nana cooks and gardens with him; and Daddy, a professor who teaches Black history, exhorts him to persist—a strong message that will resonate with readers. Spencer’s illustrations depict a loving Black family whose members respect one another.

An honest, inspiring STEM-focused story starring an incredibly relatable future scientist. (facts about five Black scientists) (Chapter book. 6-8)

Pub Date: July 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-38353-7

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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“It’s time to head back home,” the narrator concludes. “You’ve touched the Earth in so many ways.” Who knew it would be so...

TOUCH THE EARTH

From the Julian Lennon White Feather Flier Adventure series , Vol. 1

A pro bono Twinkie of a book invites readers to fly off in a magic plane to bring clean water to our planet’s oceans, deserts, and brown children.

Following a confusingly phrased suggestion beneath a soft-focus world map to “touch the Earth. Now touch where you live,” a shake of the volume transforms it into a plane with eyes and feathered wings that flies with the press of a flat, gray “button” painted onto the page. Pressing like buttons along the journey releases a gush of fresh water from the ground—and later, illogically, provides a filtration device that changes water “from yucky to clean”—for thirsty groups of smiling, brown-skinned people. At other stops, a tap on the button will “help irrigate the desert,” and touching floating bottles and other debris in the ocean supposedly makes it all disappear so the fish can return. The 20 children Coh places on a globe toward the end are varied of skin tone, but three of the four young saviors she plants in the flier’s cockpit as audience stand-ins are white. The closing poem isn’t so openly parochial, though it seldom rises above vague feel-good sentiments: “Love the Earth, the moon and sun. / All the children can be one.”

“It’s time to head back home,” the narrator concludes. “You’ve touched the Earth in so many ways.” Who knew it would be so easy to clean the place up and give everyone a drink? (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5107-2083-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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Hurray for the underdog.

PLUTO GETS THE CALL

Heart (-shaped surface feature) literally broken by its demotion from planet status, Pluto glumly conducts readers on a tour of the solar system.

You’d be bummed, too. Angrily rejecting the suggestions of “mean scientists” from Earth that “ice dwarf” or “plutoid” might serve as well (“Would you like to be called humanoid?”), Pluto drifts out of the Kuiper Belt to lead readers past the so-called “real” planets in succession. All sport faces with googly eyes in Keller’s bright illustrations, and distinct personalities, too—but also actual physical characteristics (“Neptune is pretty icy. And gassy. I’m not being mean, he just is”) that are supplemented by pages of “fun facts” at the end. Having fended off Saturn’s flirtation, endured Jupiter’s stormy reception (“Keep OFF THE GAS!”) and relentless mockery from the asteroids, and given Earth the cold shoulder, Pluto at last takes the sympathetic suggestion of Venus and Mercury to talk to the Sun. “She’s pretty bright.” A (what else?) warm welcome, plus our local star’s comforting reminders that every celestial body is unique (though “people talk about Uranus for reasons I don’t really want to get into”), and anyway, scientists are still arguing the matter because that’s what “science” is all about, mend Pluto’s heart at last: “Whatever I’m called, I’ll always be PLUTO!”

Hurray for the underdog. (afterword) (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1453-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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