A great little history of tuberculosis for younger readers, Invincible Microbe: Tuberculosis and the Never-Ending Search for a Cure by Jim Murphy and Alison Blank mixes science and stories for an easy to read non-fiction book. It's complimented by red writing and black and white images, which break up the text nicely. For such a complicated issue, Murphy and Blank manage to pare down the story to its essentials which make it easy to follow but still allows the reader some insight into specific events and people. There's even the addition of pronunciation guides for all the scientific names.
There are a few instances in Invincible Microbes when the book felt a bit superficial, but I have a pretty advanced scientific background that means I am definitely not the intended reader. Then, there were other times when historical figures were mentioned without any elaboration at all– when I felt a younger reader would probably benefit from one, even just to say that Alexandre Dumas wrote The Count of Monte Cristo when quoting him, for example.
That said, even as a biology grad student I still managed to pick up some new bits of information especially when it came to reading about the sanatoriums. It was ridiculous to read how recently they were still considered the tuberculosis cure. It was also a bit scary to be reminded that the disease is still far from being erradicated– but that was definitely the message the authors left the reader with. The advent of airplanes and the ease with which people travel the globe means that another outbreak is not only plausible but probable, which makes it more important than ever to try to discover a cure and to diagnose and treat cases world-wide.
Invincible Microbes is an easy way for a younger reader– probably middle grade– to learn without trying. Murphy and Blank take a complicated and important topic and give a concise history, including plenty of intriguing bits to keep the reader's interest. It's definitely an approach I appreciate and I would certainly pick up another collaboration by them, or try one of Murphy's solo books, in the future.
Release Date: July 10th 2012 Pages: 160 Format: Hardcover Source: Publisher
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Buy It: Book Depository