Medicine joins our immune systems in squaring off against microbial invaders.
Using what amounts to an anatomical holodeck, white-coated, olive-skinned Elena squires two dim-bulb bacilli, Bubonic Plague and Yellow Fever, through a thymus gland and other tissues while lecturing on the causes and treatments of infectious diseases and trying to enlist them as vaccines in the fight against their own deadly kind. Along the way readers come face to face—literally, as all the cells in the cartoon panels are anthropomorphic—with a large cast of common disease bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa on one side and on the other, six kinds of tough-guy leukocytes (“Git yer flu antibodies ready, y’all!”) the body produces in defense. In laying out a general history of plagues and medical advances, accompanied sometimes by thrillingly gruesome illustrations, Koch covers highlights and lows, such as how smallpox was used as a bioweapon in the French and Indian War, but avoids mention of the various means of transmission in the spread of HIV and leaves other STDs out of the picture entirely. Still, she injects heady doses of both history and histology into the tour, lightens the load with humor (of a sort: “Ha! Jenner put a lot of pus in that kid!”), and hints at promising new directions in medical research.
A reassuring picture of ever more stout defenses ranged against a scary, invisible world. (glossary, timeline, endnotes, bibliography) (Graphic nonfiction. 11-14)