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

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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A winning heads up for younger readers just becoming aware of the wider natural world.

DON'T LET THEM DISAPPEAR

An appeal to share concern for 12 familiar but threatened, endangered, or critically endangered animal species.

The subjects of Marino’s intimate, close-up portraits—fairly naturalistically rendered, though most are also smiling, glancing up at viewers through human eyes, and posed at rest with a cute youngling on lap or flank—steal the show. Still, Clinton’s accompanying tally of facts about each one’s habitat and daily routines, to which the title serves as an ongoing refrain, adds refreshingly unsentimental notes: “A single giraffe kick can kill a lion!”; “[S]hivers of whale sharks can sense a drop of blood if it’s in the water nearby, though they eat mainly plankton.” Along with tucking in collective nouns for each animal (some not likely to be found in major, or any, dictionaries: an “embarrassment” of giant pandas?), the author systematically cites geographical range, endangered status, and assumed reasons for that status, such as pollution, poaching, or environmental change. She also explains the specific meaning of “endangered” and some of its causes before closing with a set of doable activities (all uncontroversial aside from the suggestion to support and visit zoos) and a list of international animal days to celebrate.

A winning heads up for younger readers just becoming aware of the wider natural world. (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51432-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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