I have some theories about both children's books and about science-themed graphic works.
There are basically two kinds of children's books: those that are designed to please children versus those that are designed to attract the adults that buy most children's books. There are also basically two kinds of science-themed graphic works: those that are essentially regular information dump-style textbooks that mix in some funny pictures and light-hearted banter as kind of a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down and those that truly take advantage of the strengths of the graphic medium to inspire interest in science and well as impart some knowledge and information.
Both axes are relevant when I think of the book under review today: It's Catching: The Infectious World of Germs and Microbes which is written by Jennifer Gardy and illustrated by Josh Holinaty. A children's book aimed at fairly young kids, the book is about the world we cannot see but that is so important to human health: bacteria, virus and all those other microscopic bugs that so vastly populate our world.
And it does quite a fine job with the information part of its mission. While perhaps not suitable for light bedtime reading for most kids, the surprisingly detailed information is well-presented in a light-hearted way designed to attract and incite curiosity rather than any kind of ick-factor or undue revulsion. Sure, germs need to be treated with respect, but there are part of our lives and bodies. I especially liked the latter parts of the book which moved beyond the basics what bacteria or viruses were and delved deeper into more public health topics such as ebola, self-experimentation, epidemiology, genetics, and vaccination.
Where perhaps a little more attention could have been paid by the creators would have been in more directly integrating the narrative and explanatory potential of the graphic medium into the explanatory text. In other words, the book felt a little textbooky sometimes, not to mention a book that perhaps the adults in a precocious child's life might have thought would be good for her. This book could have definitely been a bit more "Captain Underpants" and indulged in a bit of educational grossness.
But those are quibbles. This is a fun book, well written and well illustrated, with a lot of good information that will be perfect for any kid who loves the "gross" aspects of the human condition. And that's pretty well all of them. It would make a great gift and would fit in at any public library collection as well as any academic education resource centre/library.
Gardy, Jennifer and Josh Holinaty. It's Catching: The Infectious World of Germs and Microbes. Toronto: Owl Kids, 2014. 63pp. ISBN-13: 978-1771470018
(Review copy provided by publisher)
Other science graphic novels and illustrated books I have reviewed:
- Darwin: A Graphic Biography and Mind Afire: The Visions of Tesla
- Survive! Inside the Human Body graphic novel series
- How to fake a moon landing: Exposing the myths of science denial by Darryl Cunningham
- On a beam of light: A story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne and Vladimir Radunsky
- Primates: The fearless science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks
- The Boy who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdős by Deborah Heiligman and LeUyen Pham
- Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm
- Feynman by Jim Ottaviani and Leland Myrick
- The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA by Mark Schultz, Zander Cannon and Kevin Cannon
- Evolution: The story of life on Earth by Jay Hosler, Kevin Cannon and Zander Cannon
- Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis, Christos H. Papadimitriou, Alecos Papdatos and Annie Di Donna