Friday 16 February 2024

Your Brain is a Lump of Goo

Your Brain is a Lump of Goo by Idan Ben-Barak & Christopher Nielsen (Allen & Unwin) HB RRP $24.99 ISBN 9781761180156

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

How do you explain the appearance and workings of the brain to a small child? Ben- Barak, in this picture book for children aged 5 to 8 years, likens the brain’s size to that of a pineapple, and its texture that of goo that looks like a big walnut (but gooey). Accompanied by cartoon illustrations of the brain’s owner, a small girl wearing a helmet and doing things like riding a scooter and walking a pineapple, the text continues… It explains ‘I’m made of hundreds of billions of cells. They’re all connected. They send signals to each other.’ Saying it’s ‘very complicated’, the text states ‘I’m the part of you that is YOU.’

In the middle of the book is what looks like four scoops of ice-cream made of orange, blue, and pink colours (representing the brain). Surrounding it are dozens of words and phrases pertaining to the brain, such as ‘Emotions’, ‘Sibling Annoyance Centre’, ‘Happiness’, ‘Growing,’ and ‘Thoughts.’ 

There is more information on the workings of the brain, including how it can sometimes get confused, distracted, or overwhelmed. The text continues: ‘Look, I’m not a computer. Nobody planned me. Nobody built me. It took me many millions of years to become what I am.’ It proceeds with what the brain is capable of, such as teaching the lungs to breathe, the legs to walk, and so on. None of what the brain can do, it says ‘doesn’t happen with pineapples.’

The book concludes with a double page spread of information about the actual workings of the brain, the sort of text which needs to be read by an adult, perhaps to a child to explain the parts -- and purposes of those parts, of the brain. This includes words familiar to an adult, such as ‘cerebellum’, ‘cerebrum,’ ‘occipital lobe’, and ‘hypothalamus.

It's difficult to imagine that this book would be a favourite of children but it's at least a valiant attempt by a writer and illustrator to capture the essence of the body's most mysterious organ to a youngster.

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