DNA Detective: A Nonfiction Genetics Mystery

BookendsCindy: I stumbled upon Tanya Lloyd Kyi’s DNA Detective (2015) at the public library (thank you to Loutit Library for allowing me to cannibalize your new book displays!) and ended up ordering copies for my middle-school libraries. The book opens with a one-page comic illustration of a jewelry-store crime scene. Millions of dollars worth of jewels are missing, but a glove, a crowbar, and the semi-precious replica rubies have been left behind. Over the course of just over 100 pages readers will learn about DNA, genetic traits, and the scientists who have solved many of the mysteries about our human code. Additional clues are presented in interspersed comic-strip updates asking readers to puzzle out the elimination of suspects from the initial lineup. DNA Detective by Tanya Lloyd KyiLil Crump’s illustrations combine with Kyi’s hip text to make this complex topic truly accessible for middle-school readers. I am happy to see that Rosalind Franklin gets due credit for her early work creating images of DNA that aided Watson and Crick in their more famous work. This enticing and informative book doesn’t shy away from ethics and controversy, either. Included are discussions about cloning, GMOs, corporate rights to the Human Genome Project, and bioethical topics. Did you know that there is even an app to prevent cousins from dating one another in Iceland? Like the detail in our genetic blueprint, Kyi and Crump squeeze a lot of information into a very small space while making it a very fun read.

Mystery MonthLynn: Great find, Cindy. I, too, loved this engaging and informative book that has just the right tone for young readers. Note the EWW factor of the illustration about Friedrich Miescher, discoverer of what he called nuclein in 1860 (actually DNA). He got his samples by scraping pus from used bandages! From DNA scientist “rock stars” to recent discoveries and uses of DNA knowledge to sample ethical dilemmas, the book provides a wealth of information, speculation about the future, and thought-provoking situations. The DNA mystery adds a fun puzzle for young sleuths while demonstrating how DNA science is already in everyday use. DNA Detective interiorA list of further reading and a lengthy list of sources are also provided. Check out Kyi’s blog for a peek at some of her other titles, like 50 Body Questions: A Book That Spills Its Guts (2014) or Extreme Battlefields: When War Meets the Forces of Nature (2016). I’m glad that Cindy stumbled on this new-to-us author.

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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