Dr. Cargill H. Alleyne, Jr. was taking his family to Disney World four years ago when he had an idea for a children’s book.
“It was a long drive, and my kids started asking questions about the brain,” Alleyne said. So the Neurosurgery Chief at Georgia Health Sciences Medical Center began to share his scientific knowledge about the brain with his son and daughter.
“I started droning on and on about the brain, and I think they started to fall asleep. So, I began making up limericks about the brain instead – how it looks and how it functions. I had to stop and scribble things down a few times so I wouldn’t forget. But by the end of the trip, I basically had the book written.”
“Ned’s Head” was published in July 2012 through Create Space self-publishing. It is a light-hearted, rhyming book that examines what’s inside a little boy’s head. The boy’s name is Ned, and while getting ready for bed one night, he wonders what’s inside his head.
Readers are taken on a ride through the inside of Ned’s brain, getting acquainted with all of the nerves and parts of the brain that help answer questions many kids have, such as “How do I smile or frown? How do my eyes move around? How do I taste?” and “How do I stick out my tongue?”
In addition to the facts presented in “Ned’s Head,” there is a glossary at the end of the book that provides definitions and pronunciations of the medical terms. A real “brain teaser” in the book is that the illustrators included small hidden brains in each of the illustrations for readers to find.
Those illustrators are Michael A. Jensen and Karen G. Bradley. Jensen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical Illustration in the GHSU College of Allied Health. Besides medical drawings and artwork, Jensen has illustrated 12 Curious George children’s books.
Bradley, who received her degree in medical illustration from GHSU, is an award-winning medical illustrator and founder of KB Illustrations.
“When I first thought of the book, I wasn’t even thinking of the actual character,” said Alleyne, who holds the Marshall Allen Distinguished Chair in the Department of Neurosurgery at GHSU’s Medical College of Georgia. “It was actually Jensen who came up with Ned’s character as an African-American boy. And, I thought, ‘That’s great, because I think it would be a good way to interest a group of kids who may not be thinking about doing neurology or neurosurgery.’ “
Dr. Alleyne’s goal is to have a wide spectrum of these books with diverse topics and characters. “I’ve already written the text for Bart’s Heart, Joan’s Bones, Nelly’s Belly and Malachi’s Eye,” he said. Other books would likely be about Russell’s muscles, and Keith’s teeth.
Besides promoting reading, Alleyne says the children’s book series is a way of introducing kids to medicine at an early age.
“I think that kids are smarter and smarter these days, and if you lead them in the right direction, they may get turned onto something. It’s a neat way to introduce them to their own body and what’s going on. We may get a new crop of physicians down the road.”
“Ned’s Head” received an honorable mention at the 2012 Fall Royal Dragonfly Book Awards. It is available for purchase on Amazon for about $12.