Sunday, January 22, 2006

Invisible Allies: Microbes that Shape Our Lives

Farrell, Jeanette. 2005. INVISIBLE ALLIES: MICROBES THAT SHAPE OUR LIVES. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. ISBN 0374336083 [Suggested Grade Levels 6-9]

Seven years after the publication of INVISIBLE ENEMIES: STORIES OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1998), Jeanette Farrell has published another nonfiction book for young adults explaining and exploring the microbe world, this time focusing on the friendly, benevolent microbes that make our lives easier. Full of "I didn't know that facts," INVISIBLE ALLIES is a fascinating presentation of how microbes "shape our lives" both inside and outside our bodies. After presenting a brief history of the key scientists who discovered the microbe world--including Antony van Leeuwenhoek and Louis Pasteur--the text follows a simple premise: to follow a meal of a cheese sandwich and chocolate bar from creation through digestion.

Divided into five chapters, INVISIBLE ALLIES uses three chapters to discuss how microbes are essential for making cheese, bread, and chocolate. The fourth and fifth chapters discuss how microbes are used to digest the food both inside and outside the body. With chapter titles like “Microbes at the Table” “Our Daily Bread” and “Microbes Are Us” Farrell uses a straightforward and often conversational style to present complex scientific ideas in interesting and creative ways. For example, she provides readers with experiments they can try at home. INVISIBLE ALLIES is well researched and includes a glossary, index, endnotes, and selected bibliography.

Provide readers with a variety tray of cheeses and chocolates. (For example, Swiss, Provolone, Brie, etc. and dark chocolate and milk chocolate. After the taste test, ask for opinions and graph the results. Which kind of cheese is most popular? What kind of chocolate do most prefer?

Other similar nonfiction books:
Boring, Mel, Leslie Dendy, and C.B. Mordan. GUINEA PIG SCIENTISTS. ISBN 0805073167

By Becky Laney

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