A Kid's Guide to the Brain


64 pages
Contains Photos, Index
ISBN 1-895688-19-1
DDC j612.8'2





Illustrations by Gary Clement
Reviewed by Kelly L. Green

Kelly L. Green is the co-editor of the Children’s Literature edition
of the Canadian Book Review Annual.


This book lives up to its title, and more, since it will also become an
adult’s guide to the brain if the adult is left alone with it for very
long. Sylvia Funston and Jay Ingram, both renowned science journalists,
have produced an inspired look at our brains at work, inside, outside,
and all around. They introduce complicated concepts (many of which I was
not exposed to until a university course in biopsychology) so clearly,
and with such creativity, that kids will absorb the knowledge without
even knowing they are learning the biology of the brain. After reading
this book (and performing some of the myriad simple, intriguing
experiments), children will never forget, for instance, that the brain
recognizes the top part of the face better than the bottom, that
telephone numbers are seven digits long because of short-term memory
limitations, and that they should eat protein for lunch to stay awake in
the afternoon.

The book is packed with information, based on very current brain
research. Children will go back to it time after time to learn more,
refresh their knowledge, play the games, examine the hundreds of
information-packed illustrations, or find a fact with which to stump
their parents and teachers. Science was never this fun when I was a kid.

The book has just a couple of minor flaws. The writing style Funston
and Ingram have employed is ever so slightly condescending in some
sections. For instance, in the section on touch we are told that
homunculus (“the body map that’s stretched across your touch
cortex”) means “little man,” but that “since you’re a kid,
we’re going to call it your kidunculus.’” This cutesy touch is
both unnecessary and confusing to the reader. In addition, the writers
often tell the reader the results they should get from the various
“Try This” experiments in the very section in which the experiment
is described. This rather destroys the spirit of experimentation at the
get-go. It might have been better to place explanations on the next
page, or at the back of the book, to keep the spirit of scientific
inquiry keen.

These are truly minor quibbles, however, and this superb book, which is
guaranteed to make the brain come alive, is highly recommended.


Funston, Sylvia, and Jay Ingram., “A Kid's Guide to the Brain,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 17, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/32080.