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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Plagues: The Microscopic Battlefield, by Falynn Koch. First Second, Roaring Brook Press. Raincoast. $17.99 ages 11 and up

"Humans can be infected
with viruses in the same
way as bacteria. But once
inside, they act differently.

Unlike bacteria, viruses
cannot replicate on their
own. They need a host cell.

"That's right I like a nice 
healthy cell to get comfy in!"

As I considered this post and what I would say about the four Science Comics I have just finished reading: Plagues, Rockets: Defying Gravity, Coral Reefs: Cities of the Ocean, and The Brain: The Ultimate Thinking Machine, I thought I would tell you I was 'scienced-out'. If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you will know how uncomfortable I often feel when writing about science. I do not, in any way, consider myself scientific, or qualified to review them. But, I can tell you how they make me feel. The first four books I have read in this wonderful series left me feeling 'scienced up'. I know so much more now than I did when I sat down to read them.

As happens with each book in the series, the author/illustrator shares a wealth of information in comic book form, making it appealing and memorable for the audience it is meant to serve. In Plagues, we meet Elena who is a researcher accompanying Bubonic Plague and Yellow Fever through glands and tissues while trying to convince the two infectious diseases to act as vaccines within the body. She shows them how harmful each has been throughout history. The two are delighted with the destruction they have caused. They even laugh at her pleas.

Ms. Koch uses both history and anatomy, adding touches of humor, to create a bit of a lighthearted tone to the teaching. She details how certain plagues originated and how they spread. But, she also informs readers that those plagues helped to improve medicine and the treatment of future outbreaks.
She does not shy away from the terrible things that have happened, while providing facts concerning the variety in pathogens, their ability to attack the body, and the ways the body works to fight off infections of all kinds. Learning about our own bodies was enlightening and surprising to me. White blood cells are pretty amazing! And there are so many different kinds.

There are a lot of superbugs out there. Medical research is making some tremendous progress in  areas of control and understanding clinical care and treatment. We can only hope it will continue. The illustrations help readers to make connections and to begin to understand more about the bacteria that too often take root in our systems.

This is a very complete introduction to the particular subject of plagues, with a glossary, timeline, end notes, and bibliography added to help with further learning.

Besides the four titles mentioned at the beginning of this post, works already published and forthcoming titles include dogs, dinosaurs, the solar system, trees, bats, robots and drones, sharks, flying machines, cats, cars, wild weather, polar bears, and volcanoes. Surely there is a title there to impress someone you know who has a scientific bent.                                                                       

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