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Is a Blue Whale the Biggest Thing There Is?

A blue whale is big; its the biggest animal alive. But it isn't the biggest thing there is. In this informative and engaging book, readers discover some big things, some bigger things, and the thing beyond measure--what can truly be called the Biggest Thing There Is!
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This raffish primer on the meaning of ``big'' delivers a healthy, age-appropriate jolt to common assumptions about proportion and numbers. Beginning with a blue whale's flukes (``the `flipper' parts of the tail, all by themselves bigger than most of Earth's creatures''), Wells projects the relative sizes of Mount Everest (20 giant jars filled with 100 blue whales each), the earth, the un, the Milky Way, right out to the universe itself. Child-friendly watercolors show a bag of 100 planet earths dwarfed by the sun, and a crate of 100 ``sun-sized oranges'' inconsequential atop Antares, ``a red supergiant star.'' Somewhat understandably, Wells's pictures and analogies wither as he tackles the magnitude of galaxies and the universe. To prevent readers from choking on these perceptual mouthfuls, valuable introductory and final notes suggest a relatively concrete scale: for instance, counting to a thousand takes about 12 minutes, counting to a million takes 3 weeks at 10 hours per day, but counting to a billion takes a lifetime. Ages 6-11. (Sept.)

Gr 2-3-With its bright primary colors; cartoon illustrations; and readable, conversational text, this picture book will find a niche in most collections. Not a story as such, it begins on the title page with the question, ``Is a Blue Whale the Biggest Thing There Is?'' and answers it in a series of cumulative examples. Millions of blue whales placed into enormous jars and stacked up don't begin to compare to the colossal size of Mt. Everest, just as even 100 Mt. Everests piled up only make up a whisker on the face of the Earth. Taking this comparison to the outer limits of the imagination, Wells ends up with the biggest thing there is-the universe. Librarians and teachers could use this book to introduce units on size, measuring, or relativity. And it would be useful to demonstrate how to make beginning graphs in a fun, accessible way.-Jan Shephard Ross, Dixie Elementary Magnet School, Lexington, KY

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