I’ve read quite a few nonfiction graphic novels and several featuring the human body, but none have been as fun and informative as this series. In the first book we are introduced to Geo, the hero and master of survival. He’s excited to meet his old friend Phoebe and visit Dr. Brain and his grouchy intern, Kay. But little do they know, Dr. Brain has a new invention—a ship that can shrink to microscopic size and enter the body! A series of accidents and one case of the munchies later, and Dr. Brain and Geo are trapped in Phoebe’s body. They’ll have to navigate and survive Phoebe’s digestive system without getting trapped, lost, or…uh-oh. The first volume ends on a gross cliffhanger with Dr. Brain and Geo making an unscheduled trip to the circulatory system and Kay frantically examining Phoebe’s poop to find the missing ship. In the second volume, Geo and Dr. Brain explore the circulatory system, including some very bumpy trips through the heart, while Kay keeps trying to get them out and Phoebe wonders why everyone’s gone nuts—and where are her friends, anyway? It’s not over yet, though. Just when they’re about to escape, they get lost again. This time, in volume 3, they’re trapped in the nervous system! Things get scary as they’re navigating through the delicate system of the brain and make a horrible discovery, but fortunately Kay has their back, Geo brings his survival master skills to play, and Dr. Brain proves he’s a genius scientist. Phoebe is saved, all her friends are outside the body, and Dr. Brain has a great new paper for the medical conference.
Each chapter addresses a different aspect of the digestive, circulatory, or nervous system. As Dr. Brain and Geo explore, Dr. Brain explains what they’re seeing and how it works. Meanwhile, we see the effects and reactions of outside stimuli as Phoebe’s actions affect her body and Kay tries to address various issues from being tired and hungry to intestinal parasites. At the end of each chapter, there’s a spread explaining the concepts in more detail, with diagrams and small illustrations. Each book includes an index and a note from the editors explaining the origin of these stories, which are part of a series of popular science comics from South Korea and after translation “two medical doctors have reviewed the content for clarity and accuracy.”
The art is a fun manga-style with the characters having typical spiky hair, exaggerated gestures and emotions, and popping eyes when they get surprised or scared. The art does a really good job of illustrating the bodily systems in a way that’s humorous and interesting, but still accurate. In some panels, we see close-up drawings of the various systems including cells, bacteria, and organs. In other panels, the action zooms out to show how all the parts work together. The two storylines, what’s happening in Phoebe’s body and what’s happening outside Phoebe’s body, blend smoothly together with panels that are full of action and detail, but never over-crowded. Especially in the second book, when Phoebe visits a street fair, there are interesting cultural notes as she eats traditional food and plays games. The medical diagrams are clear and simple and do an excellent job expanding on the illustrations in the story and exposition of the chapters.
This is a fun and informative guide to the human body with great illustrations and stellar text. A few possibly controversial points (Phoebe going to the bathroom) are blurred out. The only possible issue is the plot points of intestinal parasites and brain tumors, which might frighten some more sensitive readers. This would be a great introduction for both elementary and middle grade students learning about the human body or a teen who wants a quick refresher course.
Survive! Inside the Human Body
Vol. 1: The Digestive System
Vol. 2: The Circulatory System
Vol. 3: The Nervous System
by Song, Seok-young
Art by Han, Hyun-dong
No Starch Press, 2013
Publisher Age Rating: Kids