Translated from Spanish, My First Book of Microbes, explores the hidden world of the small, tiny, diminutive, and microscopic. Microbes might be some of the most minuscule things there are, but the amount to cover in this subject is vast.
The first thing that author Sheddad Kaid-Sarah Ferrón explains is that the word ‘microbe’ means ’small life’. This includes all sorts of microorganisms (plus viruses, which experts don’t consider alive as such). Under this umbrella are bacteria, archaea (no, me neither), fungi, protozoa (ditto), algae, and phages. Again – I had no idea what these were before reading this book. And then there are the multicellular organisms. So, it covers a lot. AND infections, antibiotics, immunisation, vaccines, transmission, bodily defences, and epidemics. You would think with so much to cover it would do all this economically and basically – for want of a better word.
However, I do think there’s a balance between this and information overload. Which I think this book teeters on. Firstly, I want to say I loved this book. It is fascinating and I learnt so much I didn’t know before. Ferrón includes everything you would want, or need, to know. I enjoyed the etymology of words and the design and diagrams. But, it all seemed too much. Possibly in some of the areas covered, but mostly in the scientific language. Obviously, vocabulary is important, but when a picture book titled ‘My First Book of…” has a page on cells which might be helpful to GCSE and A-Level students, then I wonder who the audience should be.
Young readers could find the content overwhelming and hard to access, especially the pronunciation of many of the words. There’s also no glossary. Older readers might be put off by the title and format, which really would be a shame because everything in here is great and gives brilliant explanations. Massively helped by the design, and illustrations by Eduard Altarriba, and rightly nominated for a design award. I also want to explore the other books in the series, as will many other readers from upper primary to, well, anyone.
If you’re looking for a book which goes beyond the primary curriculum and stretches children’s learning, then you can’t go wrong here. But be warned, by the time you return to the curriculum, apes may have taken over civilisation and a whole new curriculum will be in place. On the plus side, if you give a child this as their first book on microbes, they very well might not need another one until they go on to university. And I’m sure many will after being inspired by Ferrón and Altaribba.
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