A young cell learns how to do an unusual job in this debut children’s novel.
Simon Spleen is a single cell in the body of a young man named Gerald. Like all cells, he’s required to go to the Gerald School of Cellular Apprenticeship to learn how to support and protect his person’s various bodily functions. Although he’s personally destined to help the spleen clean Gerald’s blood, he also has to learn all about the other parts of the body. Thanks to the school’s hands-on teaching philosophy, he sees the digestive system, the immune system, and others up-close while making friends with the energetic Jeff Heart, smart Lizy Thyroid, and cool Ryan Lung. He also has to deal with some bullies who look down on smaller cells, but this only makes him happier when he discovers his own unique talent for taming red blood cells. (His special skills also sometimes get him in trouble, though.) All the cells are forced to put their abilities to the test early when the evil germ Meningitis invades Gerald and tries to destroy the whole body. This short tale for younger readers also contains several illustrations by the author’s 6-year-old daughter, Sophie. Overall, the book has a fun, energetic style that many children will enjoy, and most of its anatomy lessons are effortlessly incorporated into the story. Along with biology, Simon and company also learn lessons about friendship, teamwork, and how to recover from errors. The setting also leads to goofy jokes, such as “You slept like a kidney stone,” but it doesn’t rely on them to the point of annoyance. In broad strokes, the plot uses elements that are reminiscent of those in other children’s books, particularly the Harry Potter series, but placing them in a new setting may be enough to keep younger readers from finding the story predictable. Even older readers may finish the book with a better understanding of how the body works.
An enjoyable, educational trip through one of nature’s most complicated machines.