April 28, 2016

Thursday Review: HUMAN BODY THEATER by Maris Wicks

Synopsis: Iiiiiit's—a kids' comics extravaganza! Featuring The All-Singing, All-Dancing Anatomy Extravaganza, Human Body Theater: A Nonfiction Revue by Maris Wicks! With a name like Human Body Theater, if you're of a certain generation like myself, you might first (unfortunately, and inaccurately) think of the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow. NO, no. Clear all those thoughts out of your head. (If you can. My one experience with the Jim Rose Circus is indelibly imprinted on my gray matter and involves a lot of going "EEWWW" and "UGGGHHH".) If you're squeamish, don't even Google it.

No, what we've got here is another wonderful science comic by the very talented Maris Wicks, author of the graphic novels Coral Reefs (reviewed here) and Primates (reviewed here), among others. This fact-packed book provides an entertaining introduction to all the various systems of the body, how they work, what their components are, and their roles in our everyday lives, from the tiniest cells to our complicated superstar brains. Each "Act" of the performance that our astounding bodies perform every day focuses on a different bodily system, such as the Digestive System.

Click to embiggen. Courtesy of Macmillan.
As with Wicks' other science comics, all the organs and cells and whatnot are adorably brought to life with expressive little faces, and described by our intrepid and knowledgeable narrator the Skeleton. There are cartoon diagrams, pictures of organs, fun (and funny) yucky stuff, and if you're still confused at the end, there's even a glossary for you. But you won't be, because it's all so seamlessly put together, and even talks about how various systems work in concert to enable us to do things like see, hear, walk, talk, burp, and sneeze.

Observations: I know I would have enjoyed this one a lot as a kid, and gone back to flip through it over and over, because I really liked illustrated science books. I think I've mentioned that I had numerous volumes of Charlie Brown's Super Book of Questions and Answers; this fits that sort of niche. Kids (and older readers) have all kinds of questions about how their own bodies work, and this is the perfect book to answer those questions, especially if, like me, you've reached adulthood and information has started falling out of your brain

It's clear, informative, and the drawings invariably put a smile on my face. My only caveat with this one is that it is rather exhaustive. It's not a book to be (necessarily) read in a single sitting, and younger kids might find it a bit information-heavy, depending of course on the reader. On the other hand, the level of detail in this book makes it a good one for anyone who might need a refresher on their anatomy and physiology, or anyone who simply enjoys reading about science.
Click to embiggen. Courtesy of Macmillan.

Conclusion: I am a big fan of well-done educational comics. For kids who are visual learners or who respond well to multiple learning modalities, comics are a great way to introduce material that might otherwise feel discouragingly complex. Human Body Theater turns what could easily be a dry subject into a lively, personified look at the amazing human body. Stay tuned later this month for an interview with the author!

I received my copy of this book courtesy of the publisher, First Second / Macmillan. You can find HUMAN BODY THEATER by Maris Wicks at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!

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