It’s a lot to take in at one sitting, but this anatomical extravaganza really gets to the heart of the matter. Not to...

HUMAN BODY THEATER

A theatrical introduction to human anatomy, as well-choreographed as it is informative.

In 11 “Acts” hosted con brio by a skeletal impresario (“Bring out the lungs!”), Wicks parades a revue of body systems across a curtained stage. It’s a full program, with a teeming supporting cast from Dopamine to Diaphragm, Golgi Body to Gastroenteritis joining more-familiar headliners. The presentation opens with a zoom down to the cellular and even molecular levels to lay foundations for later macro and micro views of digestion, infection, and disease. Following this, the five senses (only five), the “dance of the oxygen fairies,” allergic reactions, and other anatomical processes that make up each system’s major components, most sporting cheery emoji-style faces, expressively demonstrate their respective functions. The reproductive system’s named parts deliver a frank but visually discreet turn with descriptions of erections and fertilization but no direct depictions, and it stops with the onset of puberty. The performances are enhanced by labeled diagrams, pitches on relevant topics from the importance of immunization and proper nutrition to synonyms for “fart,” and lists of important words and further resources. A few miscues aside (no, the speed of sound is not invariant), it’s a grand show, with a logically placed intermission following a peek into the bladder and a literal “wrap” at the end as the emcee puts herself together from inside out.

It’s a lot to take in at one sitting, but this anatomical extravaganza really gets to the heart of the matter. Not to mention the guts, nerves, veins, bones…. (glossary, bibliography) (Graphic nonfiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62672-277-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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A bare-bones introduction for readers without a pre-existing interest.

CYBER ATTACK

A quick history of hacking, from the “phone phreaks” of the 1960s to today’s attacks on commercial data stores large and small.

Drawing solely from previously published reports and documents, the authors paint an alarming picture (“The internet has become a cyber criminal playground”) as they trace the growth of increasingly sophisticated digital attacks on personal, corporate and government data systems. Though they rightly point out that many hackers, from early “phreaks” like Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak on, have been motivated more by the pleasures of creating software or high-tech gear (or, as they acknowledge in the case of Edward Snowden, idealism) than criminal intent, most of the incidents they describe involve theft or espionage. Noting that attacks can come from anywhere in the world and that malware can be secretly installed not just on computers, but on any number of gadgets, the authors project little hope of keeping our information safe from bad guys. Nor do they offer more than, at best, bare mention of firewalls, encryption, two-step verification, strong passwords and other protective countermeasures. Still, readers will at least come away more aware of the range of hazards, from phishing and ransomware to botnets and distributed denial of service, as well as the huge, rapidly increasing amounts of money and data shadowy entities are raking in.

A bare-bones introduction for readers without a pre-existing interest. (source notes, bibliography, further reading, index) (Nonfiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4677-2512-5

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Twenty-First Century/Lerner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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The book’s high-interest topic is ill-served by its execution.

BEASTLY BRAINS

EXPLORING HOW ANIMALS THINK, TALK, AND FEEL

An exploration of animal intelligence.

Castaldo opens with a discussion of brainpower before summarizing historical thinking on animal cognition and then presenting evidence of it, in the form of a dizzying array of experiments on such subtopics as decision-making, empathy, a sense of fairness, and communication, among others. Candy-colored pastel shades and striking photographs make flipping the pages a pleasure, but actually reading them is something of a chore. Sidebars often appear out of sequence with the text and are of varying levels of utility, as is also the case with photo captions. Low points include a reference to the author’s middle school report on dolphins and a photograph of a dolphin alone in a tank that’s labeled, “A dolphin at the National Aquarium is studied by cognitive researchers.” Chapters are broken up into subtopics with catchy headings (“The Hive Brain”; “Emo Rats”) except when they are not, as with a relatively lengthy discussion of interspecies communication that wanders from bonobos to dolphins to Peter Gabriel to orangutans. The book’s sense of its audience is uncertain. Profligate use of exclamation points and simplistic “what would you do” scenarios seem geared to younger readers, while the un-glossed use of such terms as “habeas corpus” and “prosocial,” as well as a conceptually complex model of brain processing, assumes a fairly sophisticated audience.

The book’s high-interest topic is ill-served by its execution. (resources, glossary, source notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-63335-3

Page Count: 160

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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