Monday, January 25, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: The Human Body: The story of how we protect, repair, and make ourselves stronger by HP Newquist

When I first briefly glanced at this, I assumed it was just another book on the human body. However, when I finally cleaned out my tbr shelf and delved in more deeply I discovered a unique and fascinating combination of technology and anatomy.

This is the first book in a series called Invention & Impact and it not only covers the basic functions of the human body but, as the subtitle says, explains the inventions that have been used throughout history to repair and improve the human body.

The first section covers parts of the body; eyes, ears, teeth, heart, blood, limbs, and finally the body of the future. It not only explains how things like blood work, but also the way people throughout history have tried to substitute, improve, and repair damages and what inventions are currently focused in this area. For example, did you know that there is still no artificial blood? It's simply too complex to be cloned. Did you know that false teeth were once made from the teeth of corpses? That glass eyes would crack if subjected to extreme temperatures? That prosthetics can be made using a 3-D printer?

The next section talks about three basic medicines; soap, aspirin and antibiotics, their creation, use and the way they've changed the world. The final section discusses medical tools and treatments; surgery, the microscope, the stethoscope, x-ray and similar machines and vaccines. These sections are completely fascinating, discussing how soap was marketed to become a normal part of life, the dangers and difficulties of finding vaccines and some of the horrific diseases they have all but eradicated, and the truly gory early surgeries before anaesthetic.

Back matter includes websites and limited print resources, acknowledgements, and a detailed index.

I wish they wouldn't make these picture-book style layouts for middle grade nonfiction - it's difficult to get older kids to pick up something that "looks like a baby book" but this isn't as big as it could be and it's a decent length. It's not going to grab the average reluctant reader; it's a very dense title with a lot of information packed into it, but kids who are into science, medicine, history and inventions may be inspired to pick it up with some judicious booktalking.

Verdict: This is definitely going into my summer booktalks for upper grades and when I get my 5th/6th book club going (the current plan is for 2018) it will definitely be a top pick. It's one that will appeal to strong nonfiction readers and should be an excellent addition to libraries looking to encourage STEM.

ISBN: 9780451476432; Published 2015 by Smithsonian/Viking; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library


Annette said...

It's so frustrating as a writer to figure out how to write for the middle grade nonfiction audience. Resistant to picture books, but it's hard to sell longer lengths of nonfiction.

Jennifer said...

So true!