For all you eager beavers, you can pre-order Microbes! It’s available to purchase from Waterstones, Amazon, and my publisher Thunderstone Books. The book will be released December 1st.
Microbes is a super fun and fantastically illustrated picture book that gives you tons of information about the crazy and amazing world of microbes!
The artist and author, Amy Gallagher, makes learning about the world of microscopic organisms interesting, funny, engaging, and memorable.
In this nonfiction picture book, information about six different types of microbes: bacteria, viruses, fungi, algae, archaea, and protozoa, is presented in an enthusiastic and playful fashion. She makes these microbes down right adorable.
What microbes are and how they function goes in-depth enough in some areas for middle and high school students, giving me flashbacks to AP Biology, but is presented with such humor and charm that my young sons 1) sits through multiple readings 2) talk to people in line at the grocery store about microbes now and 3) will randomly ask me questions from this book. It’s a fantastic book to read as cold and respiratory illness season is upon us, giving us tools to explain and understand what is going on inside our bodies as we try to prevent, fight off, and recover from illnesses.
Gallagher begins by doing an impressive job of explaining that microbes are everywhere, inside our bodies, on the food we eat, the air we breathe, on the things we touch, without ever giving that sinking, creeping feeling that can sometimes come with learning this information. It’s always friendly and upbeat. She shows us how important microbes are and makes us aware of how much we owe them. The book then addresses the six types of microbes beginning with the ones we have the most information about (bacteria and viruses) to the ones we have the least information about (archaea and protozoa).
In bacteria, Gallagher breaks down the five groups according to their shape (which I distinctly remember being on a high school test once) giving them adorable faces and including effortlessly memorable, easier was to remember them. With younger children, you’ll want to stop at times and give more explanation to certain terms and ideas that are mentioned in this book, but middle grade children will most likely will have at least been introduced to concepts such as nucleus, organelles, membranes, and DNA. Fun and relatable stories are interspersed between factual information giving it a good balance in tone and information. Antibiotic resistance and binary fission are excellently introduced and explained.
In viruses, we learn why hand washing is so important, why we don’t use antibiotics for viral infections, and that vaccines help our bodies build immunity to viruses. You’ll actually feel sympathy for a host cell as you read about how viruses invade, replicate, and then bud from it. You’ll root for and learn about what makes up your immune system as you watch it battle virons. My kids thought this was so awesome. “We have warriors in our body! Epic Cool!” – to quote the three-year old.
In fungi, we’re introduced to the wide variety of organisms that are included in this category from mushrooms to yeast to mold. This section highlights that fungi can range from single-celled organisms to multicellular clusters, and that we can mainly find them in dirt and plants. We learn how some of them travel and disperse and that yeast have a couple different ways to reproduce. We’re shown how common fungi is in our daily life from bread to beer to mushrooms.
In algae, the topic of where we can find algae and its crucial role in producing the vast majority of air we breathe is introduced. Gallagher explains what chlorophyll is, where algae gets is colors, the basics of how algae forms together to make more complex structures, and even how we use the outer cell walls of microscopic algae in our daily life. You’ll never quite look at your toothpaste the same again.
In archaea, we learn how scientists used to call them “weird bacteria,” how they help keep our clothes clean, their three main types and sub-types, the types of environments that they can exist in that other organisms cannot, and how we’ve recently learned that they are basically everywhere.
In protozoa, we find out that they’re mainly here to eat other microbes. We learn about the sizes, structures, and movement methods of ciliates, flagellates, and protozoa in an accessible and engaging way.
22 terms are color coded and clearly defined in the glossary at the end. The final pages includes a visual recap of the six different types of microbes that is especially excellent for those who use images for memory hooks.
Microbes is an impressive general overview about the world of microscopic organisms. The illustrations are charming, adeptly utilize humor, and appeal to a wide variety of ages. It also excellently highlights important concepts of microbes. The information is organized, interesting, relevant and generates an enthusiastic energy to ask more questions and learn more. It’s a win!