An enlightening, inspirational scientific voyage that highlights the importance of collaboration.
A graphic nonfiction book that neither simplifies nor trivializes the way the human brain works.
Uta and Chris Frith are renowned neuroscientists, and their son Alex is a prolific author of more than 50 children’s books on a vast array of topics. In this dynamic exploration of the immense complexity of the brain, the Friths collaborate with British artist and graphic novelist Locke. In addition to the authors’ knowledgeable tours of the relevant science, the graphic element serves to reinforce the spirit of collaboration, one of the book’s primary themes. Though most studies in neuroscience have focused on a single brain, the Friths have concluded, through their research and their personal experiences, that brains function differently and better in connection with other brains and that collaborations with others usually produce superior results compared to results achieved when working alone. Furthermore, the more diverse the collaborative teams, the better. The authors and illustrator convey a pleasing mix of wonder, genial humor, and humility, as husband and wife banter about their work and their son provides the narrative cohesion and framing. The illustrations vividly capture both the significance of the scientific experiments and the unique familial experiences of the Friths. Locke’s art also helps clarify challenging issues involving, among other topics, autism and schizophrenia; in-groups and out-groups; how the brain can function like a hive of bees; and the deleterious effects of the failure to connect. As do many other books on the brain, this one leaves little doubt that so much of what we think or do is in response to the ways we copy others or anticipate what we think they think. Indeed, the authors begin by sharing a secret: “No one understands how the brain works.” However, by the end of this refreshing journey, readers will be much further down the path toward understanding.An enlightening, inspirational scientific voyage that highlights the importance of collaboration.
Pub Date: April 26, 2022
Page Count: 352
Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022
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An accessible, informative journey through complex issues during turbulent times.
Immersion journalism in the form of a graphic narrative following a Syrian family on their immigration to America.
Originally published as a 22-part series in the New York Times that garnered a Pulitzer for editorial cartooning, the story of the Aldabaan family—first in exile in Jordan and then in New Haven, Connecticut—holds together well as a full-length book. Halpern and Sloan, who spent more than three years with the Aldabaans, movingly explore the family’s significant obstacles, paying special attention to teenage son Naji, whose desire for the ideal of the American dream was the strongest. While not minimizing the harshness of the repression that led them to journey to the U.S.—or the challenges they encountered after they arrived—the focus on the day-by-day adjustment of a typical teenager makes the narrative refreshingly tangible and free of political polemic. Still, the family arrived at New York’s JFK airport during extraordinarily political times: Nov. 8, 2016, the day that Donald Trump was elected. The plan had been for the entire extended family to move, but some had traveled while others awaited approval, a process that was hampered by Trump’s travel ban. The Aldabaans encountered the daunting odds that many immigrants face: find shelter and employment, become self-sustaining quickly, learn English, and adjust to a new culture and climate (Naji learned to shovel snow, which he had never seen). They also received anonymous death threats, and Naji wanted to buy a gun for protection. He asked himself, “Was this the great future you were talking about back in Jordan?” Yet with the assistance of selfless volunteers and a community of fellow immigrants, the Aldabaans persevered. The epilogue provides explanatory context and where-are-they-now accounts, and Sloan’s streamlined, uncluttered illustrations nicely complement the text, consistently emphasizing the humanity of each person.An accessible, informative journey through complex issues during turbulent times.
Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020
Page Count: 192
Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt
Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020
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An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.
The Book of Genesis as imagined by a veteran voice of underground comics.
R. Crumb’s pass at the opening chapters of the Bible isn’t nearly the act of heresy the comic artist’s reputation might suggest. In fact, the creator of Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural is fastidiously respectful. Crumb took pains to preserve every word of Genesis—drawing from numerous source texts, but mainly Robert Alter’s translation, The Five Books of Moses (2004)—and he clearly did his homework on the clothing, shelter and landscapes that surrounded Noah, Abraham and Isaac. This dedication to faithful representation makes the book, as Crumb writes in his introduction, a “straight illustration job, with no intention to ridicule or make visual jokes.” But his efforts are in their own way irreverent, and Crumb feels no particular need to deify even the most divine characters. God Himself is not much taller than Adam and Eve, and instead of omnisciently imparting orders and judgment He stands beside them in Eden, speaking to them directly. Jacob wrestles not with an angel, as is so often depicted in paintings, but with a man who looks not much different from himself. The women are uniformly Crumbian, voluptuous Earth goddesses who are both sexualized and strong-willed. (The endnotes offer a close study of the kinds of power women wielded in Genesis.) The downside of fitting all the text in is that many pages are packed tight with small panels, and too rarely—as with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah—does Crumb expand his lens and treat signature events dramatically. Even the Flood is fairly restrained, though the exodus of the animals from the Ark is beautifully detailed. The author’s respect for Genesis is admirable, but it may leave readers wishing he had taken a few more chances with his interpretation, as when he draws the serpent in the Garden of Eden as a provocative half-man/half-lizard. On the whole, though, the book is largely a tribute to Crumb’s immense talents as a draftsman and stubborn adherence to the script.An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.
Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2009
Page Count: 224
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2009
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