Reading Diary: Graphic novel catch-up: Manga Guide to Physiology, Human Body Theatre, Secret Coders, Snowden

Rall, Ted. Snowden. New York: Random House, 2015. 224pp. ISBN-13: 978-1609806354

For those that have watched Citizenfour or read Glenn Greenwald's No place to hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. surveillance state, there's not much new or shocking in Ted Rall's excellent graphic novel, Snowden.

But for someone who hasn't had a chance to check out either or those works, this is a fantastic place to start a deeper exploration into the amazing story around Edward Snowden, one of the major figures in the current debate about the way governments try to control and monitor the Internet. It affects our privacy, our security not to mention our sense of whether or not our governments work for our benefit or whether they see our interests as subservient to their own desire for control and secrecy. And we're not just talking about the secret US government programs that Snowden blew the whistle on, but a whole bunch of other countries too.

Ted Rall's very fine graphic novel uses a stark and subtle style of illustration as well as a keen sense of narrative to hit the high points. This book is highly recommended for all library collections that deal with the interface between technology and politics -- academic, public and even middle school or high school libraries.


Tanaka, Etsuro; Keiko Koyama; and Becom Co. Ltd. The Manga Guide to Physiology. San Francisco: No Starch Press, 2016.256pp. ISBN-13: 978-1593274405

Similar to the Survive! Inside the Human Body graphic novel series I reviewed a little while back, The Manga Guide to Physiology is a spoonful-of-sugar-makes-the-medicine-go-down treatment of physiology in a graphic novel format, a specialty of the the publisher, No Starch Press. In fact, the Manga Guide series and the Survive! series are both No Starch publications.

An No Starch really knows how to do this type of book well. Just as the Survive! books combined a fun story with serious information about the various systems that make the human body run in quite a bit of detail, so too does the Manga Guide to Physiology. The framing story for the Manga Guide is a nursing student, Kumiko, who needs to, uh, bone up on physiology for a make up exam. Under the tutelage of a cool young prof, Kumiko combines studying for the exam with preparing to run a marathon. The framing here works extremely well as there's plenty of opportunity for light-hearted banter and well as serious discussion about physiology. The race-training provides a great opportunity for putting the book-learning into practice! As with many other books of this type, the story line covers only fairly basic information while each chapter has several pages of more in-depth information.

This is a very fine book which would work well for a quick study of the basics in any physiology course, sort of to provide some scaffolding to help get a student over the hump. Any academic, public or school library would benefit by having this fun and instructive book in their collection.


Wicks, Maris. Human Body Theater. New York: First Second Press, 2015. 240pp. ISBN-13: 978-1626722774

Maris Wicks' wonderful Human Body Theatre is quite similar to The Manga Guide to Physiology in that it is a fun and lighthearted digest of anatomy and physiology. However, while the Manga Guide could quite easily be used to provide some support/scaffolding for an actual course in physiology, HBT doesn't go into anywhere near the same detail. As such, it's more appropriate for younger students who show an interest in biology or physiology, probably at the elementary or middle school level. The art is simple and elegant yet detailed enough to illustrate the science while the story is fun and breezy. Basically, a skeleton telling it's story through the various systems of the body while it sort of re-assembles itself into a fully-fleshed body.

A fun book that I would recommend for any school or public library as well as any academic library that collects graphic novels. It would also make a perfect gift for any child that has shown some interest in science or biology.


Yang, Gene Luen and Mike Holmes. Secret Coders, Book 1. New York: First Second Press, 2015. 96pp. ISBN-13: 978-1626720756

Want to get a youngster in your life acquainted with the logical principles that underpin computer programming? Well, Volume 1 of Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes' Secret Coders series is just the book to get the tech ball rolling. Hopper has just started at a new school and is feeling a bit discombobulated. But she does make a few friends among the nerdier denizens of her new school. But there are mysteries at this new school -- some sort of cleaning robot that behaves by some strange rules or instructions. Hopper and her buddies' process of figuring out what that all means is the first step in the books stealthy introduction to what programming is all about -- teaching a machine to follow instructions. Of course, we have a cliff hanger so Volume 2 is anxiously awaited.

Of course, the name of our hero is a nice nod to computing history.

This is a very fine book that I would recommend for any school or public library as well as any academic library that collections science- or technology-themed graphic novels. It would also make a great gift for any young person who might be interested in science or technology.

(Manga Guide to Physiology, Human Body Theatre and Secret Coders review copies all provided by the publishers.)


Other science graphic novels and illustrated books I have reviewed:


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