A respectful, important tribute to an instrumental rocket scientist.

BLAST OFF!

HOW MARY SHERMAN MORGAN FUELED AMERICA INTO SPACE

Prolific STEM writer Slade spotlights Mary Sherman Morgan (1921-2004) and her role in the launch of the United States’ first successful satellite.

As a young girl, Mary’s parents delayed her education and filled her days with grueling chores on their North Dakota farm. Despite starting school at age 8, she excelled academically and bucked her family by putting herself through two years of college, where she majored in chemistry. She accepted lab jobs in Ohio and California during the war years and diligently researched fuel-oxidizer combinations to determine how they affected flight, becoming an expert in her male-dominated field. In 1953, Sherman Morgan was appointed leader of a “top secret project” to create the fuel for a rocket called Juno I that would carry America’s first satellite, Explorer I, into space. Slade ably details Sherman Morgan’s quest to determine which combination of fuels would provide the stability and energy to propel the rocket into space. With little help from her two inexperienced assistants, Morgan ultimately invented a fuel concoction known as hydyne that, after two years of field testing, was successfully used to power Juno I. Comport’s lively illustrations—rendered using color pencil, traditional collage, digital collage, and digital paint—combine dramatic perspectives, facsimiles of space-race ephemera, and collaged STEM equations, enhancing Slade’s spry narrative. Excellent backmatter includes an author’s note in which Slade acknowledges her creative use of “known facts” to plug research gaps. All characters present White.

A respectful, important tribute to an instrumental rocket scientist. (chronology, further facts, selected bibliography, photos) (Picture-book biography. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-68437-241-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Astra Books for Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere.

1001 BEES

This book is buzzing with trivia.

Follow a swarm of bees as they leave a beekeeper’s apiary in search of a new home. As the scout bees traverse the fields, readers are provided with a potpourri of facts and statements about bees. The information is scattered—much like the scout bees—and as a result, both the nominal plot and informational content are tissue-thin. There are some interesting facts throughout the book, but many pieces of trivia are too, well trivial, to prove useful. For example, as the bees travel, readers learn that “onion flowers are round and fluffy” and “fennel is a plant that is used in cooking.” Other facts are oversimplified and as a result are not accurate. For example, monofloral honey is defined as “made by bees who visit just one kind of flower” with no acknowledgment of the fact that bees may range widely, and swarm activity is described as a springtime event, when it can also occur in summer and early fall. The information in the book, such as species identification and measurement units, is directed toward British readers. The flat, thin-lined artwork does little to enhance the story, but an “I spy” game challenging readers to find a specific bee throughout is amusing.

Friends of these pollinators will be best served elsewhere. (Informational picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-500-65265-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 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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