For precocious children fascinated by science.

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THE BRAIN

THE ULTIMATE THINKING MACHINE

From the Science Comics series

When Fahama is kidnapped, she must figure out how to stop an evil brain from harvesting her own.

Fahama, a brown-skinned hijabi, agrees to help her little sister, Nour, sell her Woodland Adventure cookies door to door, but at the first house she approaches, she falls through a trap door in the porch. A butler who looks like Frankenstein’s monster assists Dr. Cerebrum, a brain encased in glass with robotic arms and legs, who plans to remove Fahama’s brain for science. When he finishes explaining his aim, Fahama asks more questions to keep him talking instead of sawing. He covers ancient cultures’ beliefs about the brain and evolution, but things get complicated quickly with the structure of different kinds of cells, how neurons work, oligodendrocytes and Schwann cells. He explains the nervous system in a fairly straightforward way, offers charts to locate the areas of the brain that control certain functions, and discusses reflexes, memory, and senses in detail. Meanwhile, Nour figures out that her sister has been kidnapped and hatches a plan to save her. The paneled illustrations serve the material best when offering examples; the combination of information overload and visual crowding on the page makes the material explored seem even more intimidating than it already is. With complex sentences, no pronunciation guides, and not much story to carry readers forward, this book asks a lot of young readers.

For precocious children fascinated by science. (glossary) (Graphic nonfiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62672-801-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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African-American Geo cuts a suitably chiseled figure in the pictures, but he doesn’t get enough to do and so is really no...

THE INCREDIBLE PLATE TECTONICS COMIC

From the Adventures of Geo series , Vol. 1

Superhero Geo introduces readers to plate tectonics.

Reviewing information on his way to school for a big geology test, young George transforms himself into “Geo,” a uniformed superhero with a rocket-propelled skateboard and a robotic canine sidekick. In his imaginary adventure, he leaps over sidewalk “faults,” swerves away from “tsunamis” splashed up by a passing truck and saves an elderly lady from falling into an open manhole “volcano.” Meanwhile, supported by visual aids provided by inserted graphics and maps, Geo goes over the convergent, divergent and transform movements of tectonic plates, subduction, magnetic “stripes” paralleling oceanic ridges and a host of other need-to-know facts and terms. All of this is illustrated in big, brightly colored sequential panels of cartoon art hung about with heavy blocks of explication. After the exam comes back with, natch, a perfect score (“I guess all that studying paid off”), Lee, a geophysicist, abandons the story for a final 10 pages of recap and further detail on plate tectonics’ causes, effects and measurement—closing with a description of what geologists do.

African-American Geo cuts a suitably chiseled figure in the pictures, but he doesn’t get enough to do and so is really no more than a mouthpiece—perhaps there will be more of a plot in his next adventure. (online projects, index) (Graphic nonfiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59327-549-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: No Starch Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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Rosy, bland hero worship.

NEIL ARMSTRONG

FIRST MAN ON THE MOON

From the Trailblazers series

A panegyric to the “reluctant hero” who first stepped onto the moon’s surface.

Woolf digs into Armstrong’s life from first airplane ride at the age of 5 to his death in 2012, taking some glances behind the scenes but with a focus on heroic exploits during the Korean War, as a test pilot, and in space. The famous line is rendered “That’s one small step for [a] man,” with a disclaimer, but overall the author tells a sketchy tale with significant details missing—such as any mention of the racist and sexist aspects of this country’s early space program. Even the return flight of Apollo 11 is covered in just a timeline and one anticlimactic sentence: “After an uneventful ride back to Earth, the astronauts splashed down southwest of Hawaii.” Ho-hum. All or most of the black-and-white illustrations are (poorly) redrawn from photographs; despite inserted wisecracks and actual quotes, they are so lifeless that even a version of the renowned Earthrise has a drab, distant look. A scant handful of further resources and a space-exploration timeline that spans only 1973 to 2015 follow a closing flurry of tributes to Armstrong’s achievements and character. Armstrong is definitely a historical figure worth knowing…but the recent spate of more-nuanced and -dramatic accounts of the space program spoil readers for choice, and this doesn’t stand out as a first or even second one.

Rosy, bland hero worship. (glossary, index) (Biography. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-593-12401-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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