THE SHORTEST DAY

CELEBRATING THE WINTER SOLSTICE

Generic ancient and modern figures in the illustrations accurately reflect the superficiality of this bland account of the winter solstice’s natural signs and traditional commemorations. Struggling to confine her discussion to the northern hemisphere alone, Pfeffer uses charts and a demonstration to show how the Earth’s orbit creates seasons, shows astronomers in ancient China and (apparently) Egypt measuring the sun’s movements, describes fire ceremonies of the Incas and an unspecified, fur-clad people, then mentions old customs that have come down to modern times, such as the hanging of evergreen wreaths, and the decoration of trees. Author and illustrator make only vague references to pagan symbolism, and avoid direct references to nonpagan religious symbols altogether—until the page devoted to St. Lucia’s day in Sweden, billed as the origin of the season’s custom of giving gifts. Closing with a handful of poorly designed activities (“Around March 21, June 21, and September 21, repeat steps 1 to 5”), and a skimpy resource list, this well-meaning effort is likely to leave readers more confused than enlightened. (Web sites) (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-525-46968-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2003

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DORY STORY

Who is next in the ocean food chain? Pallotta has a surprising answer in this picture book glimpse of one curious boy. Danny, fascinated by plankton, takes his dory and rows out into the ocean, where he sees shrimp eating those plankton, fish sand eels eating shrimp, mackerel eating fish sand eels, bluefish chasing mackerel, tuna after bluefish, and killer whales after tuna. When an enormous humpbacked whale arrives on the scene, Danny’s dory tips over and he has to swim for a large rock or become—he worries’someone’s lunch. Surreal acrylic illustrations in vivid blues and red extend the story of a small boy, a small boat, and a vast ocean, in which the laws of the food chain are paramount. That the boy has been bathtub-bound during this entire imaginative foray doesn’t diminish the suspense, and the facts Pallotta presents are solidly researched. A charming fish tale about the one—the boy—that got away. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-88106-075-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2000

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A launch-pad fizzle.

THE ULTIMATE BOOK OF SPACE

Flaps and pull-tabs in assorted astro-scenes reveal several wonders of the universe as well as inside glimpses of observatories, rockets, a space suit, and the International Space Station.

Interactive features include a spinnable Milky Way, pop-up launches of Ariane and Soyuz rockets, a solar-system tour, visits to the surfaces of the moon and Mars, and cutaway views beneath long, thin flaps of an international array of launch vehicles. Despite these bells and whistles, this import is far from ready for liftoff. Not only has Antarctica somehow gone missing from the pop-up globe, but Baumann’s commentary (at least in Booker’s translation from the French original) shows more enthusiasm than strict attention to accuracy. Both Mercury and Venus are designated “hottest planet” (right answer: Venus); claims that there is no gravity in space and that black holes are a type of star are at best simplistic; and “we do not know what [other galaxies] actually look like” is nonsensical. Moreover, in a clumsy attempt to diversify the cast on a spread about astronaut training, Latyk gives an (evidently) Asian figure caricatured slit eyes and yellow skin.

A launch-pad fizzle. (Informational pop-up picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 979-1-02760-197-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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