Throughout the month of December, AiPT! will be highlighting some of our favorite science-based books and activities for kids, this week with a special concentration on the “Science Comics” of First Second Books. Looking for that perfect holiday gift that educates while it entertains? Eureka, you have found it!

First Second Books, the award-winning graphic novel imprint division of Macmillan, created “Science Comics” as a beautifully crafted tool for middle-grade educators, students, and those simply curious about our world. Each volume thoroughly covers various topics including coral reefs, airplanes, dogs, plagues, and more, and breaks them down into easily digestible chunks for readers of all ages to enjoy.

In recent years, comics have found a home in libraries and classrooms across America. Educators and librarians agree that visual literacy is an extremely important facet of a modern student’s education. With the increasing ubiquity of visual information, students must learn to process and respond to visual content, and comics are an incredibly effective medium for exploring visual literacy.  – First Second Books

Plagues: The Microscopic Battlefield, written and illustrated by Falynn Koch, introduces Elena, a researcher conducting an active simulation called ECHO (Education Control Hologram Overseer), set in her own body. While within the CHAMBER (Center for Holographic Advanced Microorganism and Bioengineering Research) she meets Bubonic Plague and Yellow Fever, and tries to change their passion for infection into a symbiotic relationship designed to heal.

We follow their journey (via hologram) over time as they look at the devastating effects of plague and disease across the world. Bubonic and Yellow watch with glee as their brethren destroy lives through the ages. They scoff at Elena’s pleas for turning their amazing ability to ravage humanity into positive uses of their powers, such as fighting cancer and creating new vaccines.

Bubonic Plague and Yellow Fever in the ECHO simulation at CHAMBER

Koch explains in detail the origins of certain plagues and breaks down how they are spread, along with the medical advancements that stemmed from each devastating outbreak. She doesn’t shy away from explaining early uses of these pathogens as biological warfare either, citing British settlers intentionally giving smallpox-infected blankets to the people of the Ohio Valley.

Plagues does an excellent job demonstrating types of pathogens and their methods of assault and how our bodies work in various ways to fight off infection. I learned a few things, too! I didn’t know we had so many different types of white blood cells and that they all have different functions in the fight to repel pesky foreign invaders.

Bubonic Plague gets an ultimatum after refusing to work with researchers to improve health rather than destroy it.

Koch clearly knows her stuff and is able to convey the science of epidemiology effectively throughout the story without disrupting the narrative. Her illustrations are detailed yet have an adorable character to them that will grab the younger reader’s attention and keep them engaged until the end. As we battle antibiotic-resistant bacteria and mutating superbugs, it’s more important than ever to get young people interested in the fight for good health. Books like this are perfect for igniting interest in research and scientific discovery against the threat of rampant infectious disease.

Plagues: The Microscopic Battlefield
Is it good?
It's an excellent way to teach kids about the topic, recommended to anyone interested in learning, young or old.
Enjoyable read for any age
Narrative is engaging while conveying lots of detailed information clearly
Art style is clean yet comprehensive
Bubonic Plague character starts out excessively obnoxious, but honestly, what would you expect from the Black Death?
8.5
Great