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

READ REVIEW

THE GREAT BIG BRAIN BOOK

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. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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A good overview of this complex, essential organ, with an energetic seasoning of silliness.

THE BRAIN IS KIND OF A BIG DEAL

An introduction to the lead guitar and vocalist for the Brainiacs—the human brain.

The brain (familiar to readers of Seluk’s “The Awkward Yeti” webcomic, which spun off the adult title Heart and Brain, 2015) looks like a dodgeball with arms and legs—pinkish, sturdy, and roundish, with a pair of square-framed spectacles bestowing an air of importance and hipness. Other organs of the body—tongue, lungs, stomach, muscle, and heart—are featured as members of the brain’s rock band (the verso of the dust jacket is a poster of the band). Seluk’s breezy, conversational prose and brightly colored, boldly outlined cartoon illustrations deliver basic information. The brain’s role in keeping the heart beating and other automatic functions, directing body movements, interpreting sights and sounds, remembering smells and tastes, and regulating sleep and hunger are all explained, prose augmented by dialogue balloons and information sidebars. Seluk points out, importantly, that feelings originate in the brain: “You can control how you react…but your feelings happen no matter what.” The parodied album covers on the front endpapers (including the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Green Day, Run DMC, Queen, Nirvana) will amuse parents—or at least grandparents—and the rear endpapers serve up band members’ clever social media and texting screenshots. Backmatter includes a glossary and further brain trivia but no resources or bibliography.

A good overview of this complex, essential organ, with an energetic seasoning of silliness. (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-16700-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Phoned-in illustrations keep this quick overview firmly planted on the launch pad.

THE BIG BEYOND

THE STORY OF SPACE TRAVEL

A capsule history of space exploration, from early stargazing to probes roaming the surface of Mars.

In loosely rhymed couplets Carter’s high-speed account zooms past the inventions of constellations, telescopes, and flying machines to the launches of Sputnik I, the “Saturn Five” (spelled out, probably, to facilitate the rhyme) that put men on the moon, and later probes. He caps it all with an enticing suggestion: “We’ll need an astronaut (or two)— / so what do you think? Could it be YOU?” Cushley lines up a notably diverse array of prospective young space travelers for this finish, but anachronistic earlier views of a dark-skinned astronaut floating in orbit opposite poetic references to the dogs, cats, and other animals sent into space in the 1950s and a model of the space shuttle on a shelf next to a line of viewers watching the televised moon landing in 1969 show no great regard for verisimilitude. Also, his full-page opening picture of the Challenger, its ports painted to look like a smiley face, just moments before it blew up is a decidedly odd choice to illustrate the poem’s opening countdown. As with his cosmological lyric Once upon a Star (2018, illustrated by Mar Hernández), the poet closes with a page of further facts arranged as an acrostic.

Phoned-in illustrations keep this quick overview firmly planted on the launch pad. (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68010-147-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tiger Tales

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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