Bright and lively—but saddled with misses both near and wide.

The creators of The Great Big Body Book (2016) pay tribute to the organ “in charge of every single thing our bodies can do.” (Though look what’s telling them that.)

That’s just the first of several simplistic or downright wrong claims in an otherwise perceptive and lighthearted overview that covers the brain’s growth and general structure, its role in perception as well as cognition and communication, emotions, learning and memory (including amnesia and Alzheimer’s), developmental differences, sleep, and dreams—all in nontechnical language. Along with throwing out tantalizing statements like the brain “changes again a lot during the teenage years” without elaboration and that dreaming may help in “getting rid of things we don’t need,” Hoffman misses opportunities to, for instance, mention more than the traditional five senses. She also muddles her own more accurate account of how the nervous system works with a line about how neurons “head back to your brain” with sensory messages, and, in what comes off as a weak attempt to reassure readers anxious about being replaced by robots, abruptly switches tracks to close with dismissive views about the current state of artificial intelligence. Asquith mixes a satisfyingly inclusive crowd of expressive human figures in active poses with bright cartoon diagrams and anatomical views…but she includes a long-debunked “map” of where taste buds are located on the tongue that doesn’t include “umami” in the labeling.

Bright and lively—but saddled with misses both near and wide. (glossary) (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7112-4154-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020


A gleeful game for budding naturalists.

Artfully cropped animal portraits challenge viewers to guess which end they’re seeing.

In what will be a crowd-pleasing and inevitably raucous guessing game, a series of close-up stock photos invite children to call out one of the titular alternatives. A page turn reveals answers and basic facts about each creature backed up by more of the latter in a closing map and table. Some of the posers, like the tail of an okapi or the nose on a proboscis monkey, are easy enough to guess—but the moist nose on a star-nosed mole really does look like an anus, and the false “eyes” on the hind ends of a Cuyaba dwarf frog and a Promethea moth caterpillar will fool many. Better yet, Lavelle saves a kicker for the finale with a glimpse of a small parasitical pearlfish peeking out of a sea cucumber’s rear so that the answer is actually face and butt. “Animal identification can be tricky!” she concludes, noting that many of the features here function as defenses against attack: “In the animal world, sometimes your butt will save your face and your face just might save your butt!” (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A gleeful game for budding naturalists. (author’s note) (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: July 11, 2023

ISBN: 9781728271170

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks eXplore

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2023


Hundreds of pages of unbridled uplift boiled down to 40.

From two Nobel Peace Prize winners, an invitation to look past sadness and loneliness to the joy that surrounds us.

Bobbing in the wake of 2016’s heavyweight Book of Joy (2016), this brief but buoyant address to young readers offers an earnest insight: “If you just focus on the thing that is making / you sad, then the sadness is all you see. / But if you look around, you will / see that joy is everywhere.” López expands the simply delivered proposal in fresh and lyrical ways—beginning with paired scenes of the authors as solitary children growing up in very different circumstances on (as they put it) “opposite sides of the world,” then meeting as young friends bonded by streams of rainbow bunting and going on to share their exuberantly hued joy with a group of dancers diverse in terms of age, race, culture, and locale while urging readers to do the same. Though on the whole this comes off as a bit bland (the banter and hilarity that characterized the authors’ recorded interchanges are absent here) and their advice just to look away from the sad things may seem facile in view of what too many children are inescapably faced with, still, it’s hard to imagine anyone in the world more qualified to deliver such a message than these two. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Hundreds of pages of unbridled uplift boiled down to 40. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-48423-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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