Ailsa Wild, in collaboration with Dr. Jeremy Barr (text), Ben Hutchings (illus), Briony Barr (creator), Gregory Crocetti (creator), The Invisible War, Scale Free Network, 20 August 2016, 88pp., $29.95 (pbk), ISBN 9780992587253
Set in a WWI British Casualty Clearing Station in France in 1916, this graphic novel charts the journey of Sister Annie Barnaby, from before she contracts dysentery from eating infected cheese to her recovery from this often fatal illness. The team responsible for this novel don’t just chart her illness; they go inside Annie’s body to describe and visually illustrate the microscopic processes in great detail through Ben Hutchings’ wonderful drawings. While this internal ‘war’ is described, historical facts about WWI are also woven into the story – from a British doctor’s reluctance to accept the microscope and the agar plate as new tools to diagnose diseases, to soldier’s diets at the time, conscription, mobile laboratories and treatment for dysentery. It’s a roller-coaster ride through the harsh realities of war at that time.
It’s also wonderful to see a book written for youth tackle the complex subject of viruses and the human microbiota in such an entertaining way. No bacteria is left unturned in this book, and the explanations in the Appendix about ideas, phrases and concepts covered in the story (there are numbered circles that appear throughout the story, and these correspond to the information in the Appendix) add to the understanding of the often complex processes and information presented. History and English, and Science teaching resources are also available on the book’s website.
Highly recommended for anyone who wants to learn more about the human gut, microbiology, viruses, cross infection and WWI Western Front history.
Reviewed by Jane Carstens