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Young Genius series (2 books) Review by Donna CamposBy Kate Lennard
Illustrated by Eivind Gulliksen
Barron's Educational Series, Inc.
250 Wireless Boulevard
Hauppauge, New York 11788
The Young Genius series reviewed here contains two books, Young Genius Brains and Young Genius Bones. Each book has a total of 32 pages, including one "fold-and-reveal" page. Intended for students from 5 to 8 years old, the books teach children about the referenced body parts. The "star" of the book is Young Genius, who introduces himself on the first page and then leads the reader through the interesting information he has learned. The books include discussion questions, matching activities, references to proper nutrition, and even reasons for using safety gear such as helmets and kneepads. The brightly colored, cartoon-style drawings keep the attention of the child, and the use of humor helps the child retain the information.
These books would be handy during a human body unit or during a study that focuses specifically on the brain or bones. These books are easy to understand, and they contain many helpful bits of information. Each book closes with a reference to a medical professional in a related field (a brain surgeon and a physiotherapist) and a brief description of what they do.
Our family enjoyed these books and found them more educational than several of the library books we had used for our human body unit. The humor had my eight-year-old laughing hysterically at times. One humorous cartoon drawing portrayed a child whose head (on top) resembled a loaf of bread (to symbolize the slices of a brain scan). A short couple of years ago this would have bothered our autistic spectrum son a great deal, but he handled it well and saw the humor in its simplicity. More importantly, the cartoons presented in this manner helped him understand the information as he giggled through the pages. The books include references to animals as well as humans, pointing out that every creature has a brain and that some creatures wear their bones on the outside as exoskeletons. There were no evolutionary references; the one reference to a dinosaur simply stated that with proper care a person's bones might last as long as a dinosaur's.
I would urge parents to preview the content, though. There might be some "humorous" material that would be deemed inappropriate for some families. Specifically, a cow is described as being less intelligent than a bumble bee (despite having a larger brain) because the cow will stand in her own "poo." In another example, a rather sickly looking individual is feasting on "bad brain juice," which is presented as cigarettes, fried foods, pop, too much TV, and not enough sleep. The section on ligaments and joints refers to an "old lady" who had her hip replaced and can now do a karate kick. Many times we laughed at the humorous statements in the books; other times we wondered whether better wording might have been used.
Overall, we found these to be wonderful books and hope that the series will grow beyond these two titles. The information is medically sound. The drawings are simple, yet they still offer plenty of information. As a family dealing with autism, we found that these books provided a starting point for many pertinent discussions.