Title: It’s Catching – The Infectious World of Germs and Microbes
Author: Jennifer Gardy, PhD / Illustrator: Josh Holinaty
Publisher: Owl Kids
Publication Date: 2014
My Two Cents: One thing you quickly learn when working with kids is that there’s a definite “so gross it’s awesome” factor to many top nonfiction titles. So, I’m kicking the cool grossness up a few notches with a book all about infectious diseases! Don’t worry, it’s actually much more palatable than it might sound, thanks in no small part to Josh Holinaty’s cute illustrations and Dr. Jennifer Gardy’s humorous text. It’s Catching introduces young readers to the microscopic world of germs and microbes, sharing with them some of the history and science of pathology and epidemiology, and getting them up close and personal with several different diseases, from the common cold to the terrifying ebola virus.
The book cleverly balances potentially frightening facts (“Measles is a big problem in the developing world, where it kills over 750,000 people every year”) with cartoon illustrations to create a text that is accurate and informative but still age-appropriate. A text on this subject could easily become unsettling or frightening for young readers, but at the same time it’s important that children recognise that this is a serious, potentially dangerous topic that they should take with some respect.
I really appreciated that fact that the book opens with an introduction by the author, Dr. Gardy, who just happens to be an amazing awesome woman, and a real inspiration to young readers. It’s always satisfying to be able to provide kids with real-world examples of women pursuing exciting, nontraditional careers, being successful, and challenging industry stereotypes (remember the “distractingly sexy” fiasco from a year or two ago, in which female scientists were degraded by their male colleagues?).
I do wish that the book included a bibliography or cited sources, both to give kids further sources for further research and to provide an example of properly cited work.
Still, that teeny-tiny critique aside, this Canadian ode to the weird and wonderful world of the microscopic makes for infectiously good reading. Highly recommended for library and classroom collections.