Posted in Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Give your brain a workout with NatGeo Kids’ MASTERMIND!

mastermindMastermind, by Stephanie Warren Drimmer/Puzzles by Julie K. Cohen, (May 2016, NatGeo Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2110-8

Recommended for ages 8-12

Loaded with over 100 games, tests, and puzzles designed to “unleash your inner genius,” Mastermind is huge fun – and you learn stuff, too.

Guided through the book by cartoon characters Ima Genius and her canine sidekick Astro, Mastermind is all about the brain: each section is devoted to a different part of our brains and features sections like How it Works, where readers are guided through a step by step process of each part of the brain makes operations like sight, muscle movement, smell, and memory happen; fun facts and wild photos help break it all down for readers. Time Trials challenge readers to solve puzzles while timing themselves, and a final quiz in each chapter, called Test Your S.M.A.R.T.S. (Superior Mental Acuity and Rationality Testing System), pop up in each section, so budding geniuses can witness themselves becoming smarter with each section. A fun Mastermind Meter lets you track the progression of your genius through the book.

I had a great time reading and playing the games in Mastermind. The facts and real-life stories are interesting and fun, and there’s a ton of information to be learned here. Each section of the book looks at a different part of the brain and how we use them, from our senses, to identifying sounds, to mental map making and memory. Beginning with a maze through a highlighted part of the brain (to get your brains ready, naturally), readers learn how animals use their brains for similar purposes, and Weird Science introduces us to people living with brain issues that make them see things differently; for instance, hemospatial neglect causes someone to ignore things on one side – imagine only shaving half your face?

This will be destroyed in circ, because kids are meant to write in this book, but it won’t stop me from adding it as a great birthday or holiday gift to a few budding geniuses on my list. There are tons of ideas in this book for teachers and librarians, though; you can get the kids fired up with your own timed code challenges or have them figure out which genius they gel best with. The Mastermind website offers two downloadable puzzles, and a genius personality quiz kids can take online. All in all, Mastermind provides some fun and makes you think, which is really what learning should be all about.




I'm a mom, a children's librarian, bibliophile, and obsessive knitter. I'm a pop culture junkie and a proud nerd, and favorite reads usually fall into Sci-Fi/Fantasy. I review comics and graphic novels at WhatchaReading ( I'm also the co-founder of On Wednesdays We Wear Capes (, where I discuss pop culture and geek fandom from a female point of view.

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