On the crest of a brainwave

23rd November 2007 at 00:00
Helping children to make sense of anatomy and encouraging them to view the body with fascination rather than disgust.How Nearly Everything was Invented by the Brainwaves. Roger Bridgman. Illustrations by Lisa Swerling and Ralph Lazar. Dorling Kindersley, pound;12.99.

A delightful book, one I would love to have read to my own children.

It contains charming and often amusing drawings, which will appeal to young children but it won't grab every child's attention, so you would be wise to thumb through it before buying it as a gift for your child or grandchild. If you like Heath Robinson, you might just decide to keep it for yourself.

My pupils described it as a child-friendly book and they loved the fold-out pages. However, one was concerned that his dyslexic younger brother would struggle to read the text. The main drawback with this type of fold-out book is that the pages often fold where you don't want them to and the page numbering system (used to accommodate the folds) might be a little confusing for younger children.

However, it is crammed full of fascinating facts about, well, nearly everything. It is very detailed, hence the need for small type. Famous inventors, motor cars, planes, steam engines, electricity and computers are all covered; even topical subjects such as global warming and greenhouse gases appear.

There is a glossary and an index, which would make it suitable as a class reference book both in primary school classrooms and in design and technology libraries of all senior schools.

The only disappointment to me is that if James Dyson deserves six lines of print, why is Trevor Baylis absent from this gem of a book? His wind-up radio helped to bring Aids awareness to southern Africans living without electricity or the means to buy batteries.

However, the positives far outweigh the negatives and I would recommend this book to teachers, parents and any adults who have not yet grown up.

Gerald Heath teaches design and technology at Handcross Park School, an independent preparatory school in West Sussex.

Little Genius - Brains. Kate Lennard. Illustrations by Eivind Gulliksen. Red Fox, pound;4.99.

An entertaining and informative non-fiction book. It is full of useful facts about the brain and how we can look after it.

The colourful illustrations hold the interest of the reader, and the entertaining analogies (the brain is like a big pink jelly, for example) encourage children to find out more.

The text is easy to read, using language suitable for a Key stage 2 child - words such as "brain juice" and "goo" are used to replace the correct, but perhaps unsuitable terminology.

I introduced the book to a group of Year 4 pupils. They found the topic matter interesting and enjoyed reading the text.

They were also keen to use the stickers included with the book, and inform their friends what they had found out about the brain.

My 14-year-old daughter also found the book interesting, and thought that the facts about the weight of the brain were funny - "A teacher's brain is as heavy as a pumpkin" was a favourite.

This book will appeal to all KS2 pupils with an interest in how their body works.

Lynn Bourke teaches at Golborne St Thomas Church of England Junior and Infant School, near Warrington

Little Genius - Bones. Kate Lennard. Illustrations by Eivind Gulliksen. Red Fox, pound;4.99.

Bones is an attractive and engaging book. Its pages are full of colourful and entertaining illustrations that encourage you to read and explore.

Interactivity helps to motivate readers - there is a plethora of lift-the-flaps and stickers.

My Year 4 class was keen to explore it and so, too, was my 13-year-old son. It seems all ages respond to the text and the bright illustrations, with their cartoon-like aspect.

In terms of knowledge, this title allows pupils in lower Key stage 2 to access knowledge in small bits at their level.

However, upper KS2, including those with special needs, will also get something from it. The fact it is presented in a fun way makes it even more attractive.

On a literacy level, it would be an excellent example to use for reports and informational texts.

Pupils could also offer suggestions as to aspects of the text that are missing, which would help them use it more efficiently.

The lack of a contents page and index is an opportunity for pupils to create their own. In fact, there is quite a lot of scope for developing their knowledge of information books and developing their own in turn.

I particularly liked the analogy of the inside of a bone to a Crunchie. This is just one small example of a fun and interesting fact that will grab readers of any age.

I shall, personally, be looking out for more of this series

Amanda Davey teaches at Sturry Church of England Primary School, Canterbury, Kent.

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