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Crazy, Totally Awesome Facts

Bonnier/Little Bee. Bonnier/Little Bee, $14.99 (224p) ISBN 978-1-4998-0211-5

This wide-ranging book covers a plethora of topics relating to the natural world, science, technology, and the universe. Subtopics in each broad category are explored in spreads dominated by assemblages of photos large and small; the pages are dotted with informational bursts touching on topics such as global eating habits, geological disasters, and world records. In a section titled "Peculiar Plants," for example, readers learn that "Cacti are considered to be like water reservoirs, and although their inner liquid is not pure, it is drinkable." A spread devoted to world monuments and landmarks introduces structures including the Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty and notes that "The longest nose on Mount Rushmore belongs to George Washington." Trivia-obsessed kids and visual learners should find this an engrossing overview of the world and beyond. Ages 8–12. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Super Bug Encyclopedia

John Woodward. DK, $24.99 (208p) ISBN 978-1-4654-4600-8

Produced in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution, this addition to the Super Encyclopedia series spotlights 100 insects, which appear in vibrant photographs, 3-D models, and detailed illustrations. Individual species are grouped into five sections (“Animal Athletes,” “Fearsome Hunters,” “Tiny Terrors,” etc.) based on behavioral or anatomical traits. Cross sections of animals’ habitats, diagrams, and video game–esque sidebars almost create the sense of exploring a website. The magnified images of the bugs offer startling, up-close looks at their antennae, exoskeletons, pincers, and more, and the vivid descriptions (“A pair of hugely powerful toothed jaws slice through the prey’s tough armor, before the [green tiger] beetle smothers its meal in digestive juices to soften the flesh”) offer an equally intimate view of their behavior. Ages 8–12. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Professor Astro Cat’s Atomic Adventure: A Journey Through Physics

Dominic Walliman and Ben Newman, illus. by Ben Newman. Nobrow/Flying Eye (Consortium, dist.), $24 (56p) ISBN 978-1-909263-60-4

In this follow-up to 2013’s Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space, Walliman and Newman’s blue feline—one part astronaut, one part scientist—guides readers through the fundamentals of physics, addressing topics that include the scientific method, motion, force, energy, and electricity. “Our moon is always trying to fly away,” Astro Cat explains in an early spread, “but the gravity of our Earth keeps it flying around us.” Newman’s posterlike illustrations, evocative of 1960s space age artwork, put a hip, retro spin on a variety of scientific concepts. A glossary and closing spread of “factoroids” discussing neutrinos, nuclear fusion, and the Earth’s magnetic poles sneak additional information into this appealing blend of science, history, and math. Ages 7–11. (May)

Reviewed on 04/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Animal Planet Animal Atlas

James Buckley Jr., illus. by Aaron Meshon. Time/Liberty Street, $17.95 (64p) ISBN 978-1-61893-165-8

This world atlas, published in partnership with Animal Planet, highlights biomes and animal ecosystems within the world’s continents rather than focusing on nations and their borders. Illustrated images of the seven continents open sections devoted to each, followed by detailed introductions to various biomes, which include the grasslands of Europe, African rainforest, North American temperate forest, and Australian desert. Bright, full-bleed photographs showcase the differing landscapes of the biomes and the animals that call them home, and sidebars provide additional facts about the creatures (“Kingsnakes are nonvenomous hunters that usually eat rodents and other snakes”). Vibrant nature photography, concise explanations, and playful details that include regional animal “tour guides” add up to an accessible overview of wildlife, habitats, and world regions. Proceeds from book sales benefit Animal Planet’s animal welfare organization, R.O.A.R. Ages 6–10. (May)

Reviewed on 04/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Big Book of Bugs

Yuval Zommer. Thames & Hudson, $19.95 (64p) ISBN 978-0-500-65067-7

Bugs of many varieties—including some that are a stretch to call bugs—pepper the pages of this guidebook, which poses playful questions (“Does a dragonfly breathe fire?”) that serve as lead-ins to more than 20 topics. Most spreads are devoted to specific creatures (beetles, ladybugs, termites); later pages explore how bugs grow, where they can be found, and some of the ecological roles they play. Airy digital illustrations with a collage-like feel lightly personify the bugs—earthworms have red smiles, and most of the bugs are, well, bug-eyed. Seek-and-find prompts invite eagle-eyed readers to identify bugs either by appearance or behavior (“Can you find... a spider hoping to catch a tasty meal?”). It’s a handsome introduction to tiny, oft-overlooked creatures, though the inclusion of worms, spiders, and even snails make the title something of a misnomer. Ages 4–up. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 04/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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If You Ever Want to Bring a Piano to the Beach, Don’t!

Elise Parsley. Little, Brown, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-316-37659-4

Magnolia, the star of Parsley’s If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, Don’t!, and her multiracial family are beach-bound, and Magnolia insists on bringing the family piano. Before long, the piano has smooshed their lunch, gotten covered in seagull droppings, and floated off into the water. A situation this off-kilter requires a solution to match—fishing pole to the rescue!—and even that leads to more surprises. Magnolia’s wiser-than-thou narration and Parsley’s energetic illustrations are in perfect comic sync, though no words are needed for a misanthropically hilarious scene of Magnolia and her piano being attacked by hungry seagulls. Ages 4–8. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (May)

Reviewed on 04/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Mr. Hulot at the Beach

David Merveille. NorthSouth (IPS, dist.), $18.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7358-4254-0

Merveille (Hello, Mr. Hulot) returns with a second wordless picture book about Monsieur Hulot, the hapless figure of French cinema created and played by Jacques Tati. The slapstick events and beachside setting of this book recall the first film to feature Hulot, 1953’s Mr. Hulot’s Holiday. Here, Hulot fumbles with beach chairs, has a shoe stolen by a seagull, and gets swept out to sea after falling asleep—a restful trip it is not. The yellowed newspaper Hulot attempts to read throughout is the only spot of color in black-and-white scenes that again nod to the book’s cinematic inspiration. Ages 4–8. (May)

Reviewed on 04/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Rory the Dinosaur Wants a Pet

Liz Climo. Little, Brown, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-316-27729-7

Rory, first seen in Rory the Dinosaur: Me and My Dad, has just met his buddy Hank’s new pet crab, and now Rory wants his own pet. After some false starts—“Would you like to be my pet?” Rory asks a tortoise. “Nope,” it replies—a coconut falls out of a tree. Problem solved. “Dad, he followed me home can I keep him?” Rory shouts; Dad just stares. No matter. The coconut—promptly named George—is the pet of Rory’s dreams, and Climo’s crisp, ever-adorable cartoons show the two teeter-tottering, playing dress-up, and sharing a bubble bath. It’s a cheerfully absurd portrait of unconditional love. Ages 4–8. Agent: Kathleen Ortiz, New Leaf Literary & Media. (June)

Reviewed on 04/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Louise and Andie: The Art of Friendship

Kelly Light. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-06-234440-3

In this companion to Louise Loves Art (2014), Louise strikes up a friendship with her new neighbor, a girl named Andie. They both love to draw, but after a marathon art-making session, the girls realize that they have “artistic differences,” which result in a torn drawing and hurt feelings. Light’s vivid cartooning sets up a distinct visual contrast between the girls, with Louise’s red eyeglasses offset by the indigo accents of Andie’s sunglasses and mod-decorated home. Louise’s younger brother, Art, and the girls’ pets provide comedic background moments in a good-natured story about expanding one’s personal and artistic horizons. Ages 4–8. Agent: Elizabeth Harding, Curtis Brown. (June)

Reviewed on 04/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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My Dad at the Zoo

Coralie Saudo, trans. from the French by Claudia Bedrick and Kris Di Giacomo, illus. by Kris Di Giacomo. Enchanted Lion (Consortium, dist.), $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-59270-190-2

In 2012’s My Dad Is Big and Strong, BUT..., Saudo’s young narrator recounted his difficulty in getting his father to go to sleep. Now a trip to the zoo proves just as difficult: Dad poses for a photo with a flamingo, begs for ice cream (only to drop it), and gets his hat stolen by an elephant. “Dad cracks up, but not me,” grumps the boy. “That must be the eighth hat he’s lost at the zoo!” The responsibility role reversal is just as funny this time around as Di Giacomo gleefully reflects Dad’s inexhaustible energy and his son’s growing weariness in scraggly charcoal lines and washes of muted color. Ages 3–7. (May)

Reviewed on 04/29/2016 | Details & Permalink

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