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Children's Nonfiction Environmental Science & Ecosystems


Living Things That Light Up the Night

illustrated by Julia Kuo

Greystone Books Ltd
Initial publish date
Nov 2022
Environmental Science & Ecosystems, Marine Life, Biology, Insects, Spiders, etc.
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2022
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 4 to 8
  • Grade: p to 3


In this "surprisingly simple yet mesmerizing introduction to a wonder of the natural world" (Kirkus STARRED Review), kids aged 4 to 8 will marvel at the science of bioluminescence through stunning images of glowing creatures and other organisms.

When it's dark out, we need light to see. But what if your body could make its own light?

From acclaimed author-illustrator Julia Kuo comes a remarkable picture book about bioluminescence, the light made from living things, and its many forms: fireflies and foxfire, fungi and glow-worms, deep-sea fish and vampire squids.

Kuo's radiant art portrays a young child and adult discovering different bioluminescent creatures, accompanied by simple lyrical text and informative sidebars that reveal fascinating scientific facts about each of them.

An introduction to an extraordinary natural phenomenon, Luminous shines a light upon how truly wondrous the world is.

Luminous features:

  • Brilliant and unique illustrations: The depiction of vibrant bioluminescent species against an unusual black backdrop creates an unforgettable visual experience for readers.
  • The science of bioluminescence: Shares the real-life magic of bioluminescence with sidebars about the various places and species in which bioluminescence is found.
  • Text can be read on two levels: Kuo's simple and poetic narrative is accompanied by scientific facts about bioluminescence.

About the author


  • Winner, 2023 Best Children's Books of the Year

Contributor Notes

Julia Kuo is a Taiwanese–American author–illustrator who has worked with The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Science Friday. She’s illustrated I Dream of Popo, I Am an American: The Wong Kim Ark Story, and The Sound of Silence, among others. She lives in Seattle, Washington.

Editorial Reviews

"Dramatic glowing illustrations on black pages depict an awestruck parent and child together discovering nature's light show. . . A captivating read that shines a light on a fascinating phenomenon sure to spark kids' curiosity and encourage them to embrace—rather than fear—the dark."
Hakai Magazine

"Jellyfish, fireflies, forest fungi and more jump out from the dark pages of this visually striking book, offering a tantalising glimpse of a world that is so often hidden from us by our own light pollution. There's a lyrical quality to author-illustrator Julia Kuo's writing, but she is generous with the biological details too, whether it's explaining how dragonfish shine a red light that enables them to find their prey in the dark ocean, or how piddock clams light up the hands and mouths of those who eat them. This charming book's tone is one of wonder at the extraordinary abilities of animals all around us, but it doesn't shy away from the difficult subject of how humans negatively impact the environment. As Kuo puts it, "If we used less light, what could we see?""
BBC Wildlife Magazine, Children’s Book of the Month

"Gorgeous... effectively capture[s] the subdued glow of bioluminescent life... The poetic text... encourages observation and wonder... a gentle warning that human-caused light pollution is making this amazing phenomenon increasingly difficult to see."
Horn Book STARRED Review

"Will intrigue children and make them feel they have learned something new without feeling as though they are being taught... the illustrations... immediately evoke the glow of bioluminescence. Lovely."
— School Library Journal

"With two-level text and illustrations that almost seem to glow, Kuo presents the phenomenon of bioluminescence... simple, poetic text and striking images make for an effective group read-aloud. A surprisingly simple yet mesmerizing introduction to a wonder of the natural world."
Kirkus STARRED Review

"Appealing... Engaging, informative."

"Beautifully illustrated... arresting illustrations steal the show... a lovely introduction to bioluminescence, whether read as a snuggly bedtime story or shared in a group setting to a set a tone of appreciation for the beauties of nature."
Booklist STARRED Review

"Breathtaking… a revealing book whose visual appeal, like bioluminescence itself, lures unsuspecting readers in."
Publishers Weekly STARRED Review


Praise for I Dream of Popo written by Livia Blackburne, illustrated by Julia Kuo

"...Faithful representations of Chinese-language signage, street scenes, and cityscapes evoke nostalgia for those familiar with Taiwan and its vibrant food culture. Whimsical depictions of Chinese New Year at home and Popo's kitchen are authentic, down to the accurate details on a calendar, dumplings making from scratch, and the iconic rice cooker. Readers will connect with this visual story on various levels or learn something new; possibly both."
Kirkus STARRED Review

"...Digital illustrations evoking vintage advertisements have an effectively nostalgic quality, enhanced by abstract-colored skies, a subtle rice paper-like texture, and a subdued mid-century modern palette, while contemporary touches, including spreads of the girl and Popo video chatting, ground the story in the present day. A richly nuanced narrative that illuminates the interstices of one family's diasporic experience."
Publishers Weekly STARRED Review


Praise for The Sound of Silence written by Katrina Goldsaito, illustrated by Julia Kuo

"Every detail of this book brings Japan vividly to life, from popular storefronts and cartoon characters to commuters wearing surgical masks and children removing their outside shoes at school. Japanese is rich in onomatopoeic sounds, and Goldsaito and Kuo convey this linguistic quirk to English readers both visually and verbally. The elegantly expressive text and illustrations together create an immersive sensory experience for readers."
Kirkus STARRED Review

"Kuo's digitally colored pen drawings perform glorious double duty, introducing the bustling street scenes and orderly private interiors of Yoshio's beloved Tokyo, and translating the concept of ma into literal and figurative imagery."
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, STARRED Review

"Beautifully illustrated... arresting illustrations steal the show... a lovely introduction to bioluminescence, whether read as a snuggly bedtime story or shared in a group setting to a set a tone of appreciation for the beauties of nature."
Booklist STARRED Review

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