Like its preceding titles (The Natural World, 2013, etc.), this attempt to illuminate factual information by presenting it in visual ways seldom exploits the graphic possibilities.
In single-topic spreads, Richards surveys the human body’s insides and outsides, senses, bacterial fellow travelers, reproduction, growth and organ transplants. Though not particularly systematic—mentioning, for instance, red, white and platelet blood cells but only explaining (some of) the actual functions of whites—he does drop many impressively big numbers and also describes major parts and processes clearly. Printed in intense colors against monochromatic backgrounds, Simkins’ images are eye-catching, but they only illustrate the arrays of quick facts and numbers rather than highlighting comparisons or contrasts. (There are occasional exceptions, like one chart showing changing body proportions and another comparing the hearing acuity of various animals.) The visuals are sometimes misleading to boot, as when the relative amounts of nitrogen and of trace elements shown in a silhouette depicting body components contradict the printed percentages, and cardiac chambers don’t change shape or size in the portrayal of a heartbeat. Similar issues dog the co-published The Human World, in which medallions enclosing the rising number of international travelers over time are the same size, as are all but one of the balloons around population figures for the five largest cities.
These brave efforts to bring data to life are hobbled by unimaginative visuals. (index, websites) (Nonfiction. 8-10)