This engaging presentation invites readers to dive in.

THE STRANGEST THING IN THE SEA

AND OTHER CURIOUS CREATURES OF THE DEEP

Of all the curious creatures in the sea, what is the strangest of them all?

Poliquin presents profiles of a dozen surprising ocean dwellers that are not quite what they seem. The book is formatted as a guessing game. A spread pictures and describes a fantastic being; foldouts reveal the actual answers along with a paragraph of information and some fast facts. There’s a “tiptoeing rock,” a “land of candy balls,” a floating angel, and a pugnacious rainbow. Often the imagined beings are rather spooky; the writer conjures up witches and goblins, a pile of skulls, and even extraterrestrials. In first-person text, the imagined being introduces itself in four or five lines set in a relatively large font; inside the foldouts the exposition and facts are more complex, for those who want more information. The curious creatures are revealed to be ocean sunfish, goblin shark, hairy frogfish, yeti crabs, feather star, giant siphonophore, vampire squid, pygmy seahorse, largetooth sawfish, giant larvacean, peacock mantis shrimp, and barreleye fish—interesting, unusual choices. And yes, there’s a final creature who needs artificial aids to explore the watery world. A last foldout, turned sideways, reveals which creatures live at which levels of the sea. Eggenschwiler’s ingenious illustrations morph from fanciful to surprisingly realistic, adding exactly the humor needed to carry this off.

This engaging presentation invites readers to dive in. (glossary) (Informational picture book. 7-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77138-918-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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Contentwise, an arbitrary assortment…but sure to draw fans of comics, of science, or of both.

FLASH FACTS

Flash, Batman, and other characters from the DC Comics universe tackle supervillains and STEM-related topics and sometimes, both.

Credited to 20 writers and illustrators in various combinations, the 10 episodes invite readers to tag along as Mera and Aquaman visit oceanic zones from epipelagic to hadalpelagic; Supergirl helps a young scholar pick a science-project topic by taking her on a tour of the solar system; and Swamp Thing lends Poison Ivy a hand to describe how DNA works (later joining Swamp Kid to scuttle a climate-altering scheme by Arcane). In other episodes, various costumed creations explain the ins and outs of diverse large- and small-scale phenomena, including electricity, atomic structure, forensic techniques, 3-D printing, and the lactate threshold. Presumably on the supposition that the characters will be more familiar to readers than the science, the minilectures tend to start from simple basics, but the figures are mostly both redrawn to look more childlike than in the comics and identified only in passing. Drawing styles and page designs differ from chapter to chapter but not enough to interrupt overall visual unity and flow—and the cast is sufficiently diverse to include roles for superheroes (and villains) of color like Cyborg, Kid Flash, and the Latina Green Lantern, Jessica Cruz. Appended lists of websites and science-based YouTube channels, plus instructions for homespun activities related to each episode, point inspired STEM-winders toward further discoveries.

Contentwise, an arbitrary assortment…but sure to draw fans of comics, of science, or of both. (Graphic nonfiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77950-382-4

Page Count: 160

Publisher: DC

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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Pretty but insubstantial.

THE BIG BOOK OF BIRDS

Zommer surveys various bird species from around the world in this oversized (almost 14 inches tall tall) volume.

While exuberantly presented, the information is not uniformly expressed from bird to bird, which in the best cases will lead readers to seek out additional information and in the worst cases will lead to frustration. For example, on spreads that feature multiple species, the birds are not labeled. This happens again later when the author presents facts about eggs: Readers learn about camouflaged eggs, but the specific eggs are not identified, making further study extremely difficult. Other facts are misleading: A spread on “city birds” informs readers that “peregrine falcons nest on skyscrapers in New York City”—but they also nest in other large cities. In a sexist note, a peahen is identified as “unlucky” because she “has drab brown feathers” instead of flashy ones like the peacock’s. Illustrations are colorful and mostly identifiable but stylized; Zommer depicts his birds with both eyes visible at all times, even when the bird is in profile. The primary audience for the book appears to be British, as some spreads focus on European birds over their North American counterparts, such as the mute swan versus the trumpeter swan and the European robin versus the American robin. The backmatter, a seven-word glossary and an index, doesn’t provide readers with much support.

Pretty but insubstantial. (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-500-65151-3

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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