Coaxing the reader with a common carrot (if-you-think-computers-a re-amazing-wait-til-you-see-what-your-own-brain-can-do), Simon launches into a routine description of the brain's duties followed by an introduction to neurons, glial cells and synapses. The text warms up when explaining the various regions--particularly the cortex, which, when stimulated, causes a person to ``hear a bell, or see a light'' when neither bell nor light exists. However, rather than ring bells for the reader, the book as a whole sounds a thud in its inability to connect to the reader's experience. The uninventive ``Try this'' sections, with suggestions to ``look at your head in a mirror'' or to ``memorize these words in one minute'' may lead readers to an unclimactic ``so what?'' rather than ``aha!'' While Kendrick's bright, cartoony illustrations may keep readers turning pages, his humor lacks pizzazz and his visual interpretations are sometimes obscure or disengaged from the written text. Three simple experiments meant to end the book with a bang are not sure-fire, and may fizzle if the reader experiences different results or misses the point. Still, youngsters fascinated by the inner workings of their heads may find the book stimulating as an introduction to such diverse fields as left- and right-brain theory and the study of brain waves. Ages 9-11. (Mar.)
Simon does his usual capable job of sifting out the most important facts about a subject and relating them to a child's everyday world in a readable, interesting fashion. In his brisk, lively introduction, he locates the various parts of the brain and explains what they do, offering simple exercises to help readers better understand the subject. Surprisingly, it's Kendrick's bright cartoon artwork that disappoints. Though children will be attracted to the appealing illustrations and love the concept of Professor I.Q., an Einstein look-alike in a red bow tie and green-and-white sneakers, the illustrations are more show than substance. While the useful "Try This" exercises are cleverly presented as items on a clipboard, the art often overwhelms the text and usually adds little other than a bit of comic relief. The Magic School Bus science book series, written by Joanna Cole and illustrated by Bruce Degen, shows cartoon art and text in a much better balance.