Jen was challenged to take a dense topic, make it accessible, understandable, and fun. Challenge met. Also, this project, had a built-in challenge - to take BRAIN GAMES, the very popular NatGeo show, and make it two-dimensional and interactive. Again, challenge met. Kids will be engaged as they use their bodies and minds to solve problems and prove scientific facts. Be prepared for kids to bounce, jump, and mumble to themselves as they connect viscerally to BRAIN GAMES.
This interior shot from BRAIN GAMES reflected my thoughts about the brain before I read the book. I had to think about thinking - metacognition - ARG! However, Jen Swanson's structure and choice of examples made this an understandable, fascinating read. Nonfiction writers will want to examine this book as a mentor text to learn the techniques Jen has employed.
Mentor Text Goodness
Structure Is King: What entices kids to pick up or discard a book? Design and structure can make the difference. Compare Jen's book with a textbook or a book for the educational market.
- Vibrant, color-saturated 2-page spreads introduce each chapter.
- Every chapter ends with another 2-page spread -side one is a short summary, while side 2 highlights an illustration of the brain with pictures used in the chapter. Three major facts are pulled out in thought bubbles for easy recall.
- This predictable, repetitive format helps readers form an anticipatory set. They are aware of text features that aid recall.
- Using her knowledge of the brain functions, Jen gives the brain a break toward the end of each chapter. We play brain games with pictures and puzzles.
- Scientific material is "chunked" into bite-sized pieces for better understanding.
- A challenge is presented in all chapters to engage kids. On page 21 the challenge asks readers to hold a book at arm's length and close each eye separately. The scientific explanation follows. "Your eyes see each image separately and send a signal to the visual cortex in the occipital lobe of the brain."
Chapter 1 Intro
|Chapter 1 Summary Spread
Writing style, voice, and tone are intentional:
- The brain could be a dry topic, but Jen chose a witty, fun, breezy style to lighten the subject.
- The theme of driving has been chosen to add cohesion. Jen's target reader can't drive, but they are fascinated with cars.
- Word play that kids "get" for chapters and headings, such as: "start your engines, all roads lead to the front." (Think frontal lobe.)
- Questions begin most chapters to appeal to the reader. Here are a few examples: "Wish you had access to the largest storage system in the world?" and "Feeling happy? Feeling sad? Get in the mood to learn about how your brain deals with emotion."
- Jen uses examples/comparisons that her audience likes and understands: brain energy compared to 10-watt light bulb, length of motor neurons compared to a baseball bat; knowledge the brain stores compared to 300 years of TV shows.
|Time for a brain break. Answers at bottom of each page. Every 20 minutes one should take a break. (Knowledge from book.)