Human Body Theater: Graphic-Novel Anatomy Lesson Will Tickle the Funny Bones of Middle-Schoolers

BookendsLynn: An anatomy lesson via graphic novel? It may sound like a strange way to deliver information on the human body, but I’m in, body and soul. (Well, body anyway.) Make no bones about it, this is a terrific way to learn.

Human Body Theater by Maris WicksThe show in Maris Wicks’ Human Body Theater (2015) begins with a “bone-afied” human skeleton taking the stage. As the show goes on through 11 following acts, the skeleton presents information on the various systems of human anatomy.  Each act adds “body” to the skeletal system, and by the end, a fully formed girl takes a bow. The “acts” include skeletal, muscular, cardiovascular, endocrine, and immune systems, and despite the comedic theme, the information is detailed and informative, delving right into the molecular levels of the systems. Cartoon silliness abounds, but the information on all systems is frank and straightforward. In the digestive systems sequence, a peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich is followed all the way from ingestion to expulsion in a scene includes both a talking toilet AND talking poop. What kid could resist?

Wicks does some clever stuff with her explanation of erections
but the skeleton keeps the most intimate details backstage.

The reproductive system passage, which every middle-school kid will immediately turn to, provides matter-of-fact information on internal and external reproductive systems, including puberty. Wicks does some clever stuff with her explanation of erections but the skeleton keeps the most intimate details backstage. Kids are going to love this and learn a lot along the way—so give yourself a break and order multiple copies!

Cindy: There’s a reason I work with middle schoolers. I opened the book at random and landed right in the middle of the, ahem, “Guys and Dolls” chapter on reproduction. But let’s not focus there. Lynn is right: as in the rest of the book, the information is solid, presented in a manner appropriate to the middle-school audience, and uses humor, which is the best way to endure the physical and emotional changes of adolescence. The fetus in scuba gear—used to explain the function of the umbilical cord and why fetuses don’t breathe in utero—did make me laugh.

Throughout the book, the brightly colored body parts seem to dance across the pages. After all, they are on stage much of the time and this is theater. The skeleton also performs magic tricks, another feature that will amuse the readers. For instance, in the “body changes” section of the chapter on reproductive system, the skeleton pulls a long string of brightly colored bras from a top hat. The art is fabulous, both entertaining and supportive of the information presented. The final page is an encore of sorts with the girl (now dressed in her organs and clothes) peeking back out of the curtain. “You’re still here?” She then announces that there are an index, glossary and bibliography in the closing pages before she takes her final exit. Bravo!



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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