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Human Body Theater: A Non-Fiction Revue

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Welcome to the Human Body Theater, where your master of ceremonies is going to lead you through a theatrical revue of each and every biological system of the human body! Starting out as a skeleton, the MC puts on a new layer of her costume (her body) with each "act." By turns goofy and intensely informative, the Human Body Theater is always accessible and always entertaini Welcome to the Human Body Theater, where your master of ceremonies is going to lead you through a theatrical revue of each and every biological system of the human body! Starting out as a skeleton, the MC puts on a new layer of her costume (her body) with each "act." By turns goofy and intensely informative, the Human Body Theater is always accessible and always entertaining. Maris Wicks is a biology nerd, and by the time you've read this book, you will be too! Harnessing her passion for science (and her background as a science educator for elementary and middle-school students), she has created a comics-format introduction to the human body that will make an expert of any reader -- young or old!


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Welcome to the Human Body Theater, where your master of ceremonies is going to lead you through a theatrical revue of each and every biological system of the human body! Starting out as a skeleton, the MC puts on a new layer of her costume (her body) with each "act." By turns goofy and intensely informative, the Human Body Theater is always accessible and always entertaini Welcome to the Human Body Theater, where your master of ceremonies is going to lead you through a theatrical revue of each and every biological system of the human body! Starting out as a skeleton, the MC puts on a new layer of her costume (her body) with each "act." By turns goofy and intensely informative, the Human Body Theater is always accessible and always entertaining. Maris Wicks is a biology nerd, and by the time you've read this book, you will be too! Harnessing her passion for science (and her background as a science educator for elementary and middle-school students), she has created a comics-format introduction to the human body that will make an expert of any reader -- young or old!

30 review for Human Body Theater: A Non-Fiction Revue

  1. 4 out of 5

    Betsy

    I gotta come clean with you. Skeletons? I’ve got a thing for them. Not a “thing” as in I find them attractive, but rather a “thing” as in I find them fascinating. I always have. Back in the 80s there was a science-related Canadian television show called “Owl TV” (a Canuck alternative to “3-2-1 Contact”) and one of the regular features was a skeleton by the name of Bonaparte who taught kids about various scientific matters. But aside from the odd viewing of “Jason and the Argonauts”, walking, tal I gotta come clean with you. Skeletons? I’ve got a thing for them. Not a “thing” as in I find them attractive, but rather a “thing” as in I find them fascinating. I always have. Back in the 80s there was a science-related Canadian television show called “Owl TV” (a Canuck alternative to “3-2-1 Contact”) and one of the regular features was a skeleton by the name of Bonaparte who taught kids about various scientific matters. But aside from the odd viewing of “Jason and the Argonauts”, walking, talking (or, at the very least, stalking) skeletons don’t crop up all that often when you become grown. So maybe my attachment to Human Body Theater with its knobby narrator has its roots deep in my own personal history. Or maybe it has something more to do with the witty writing, untold gobs of nonfiction information, eye-catching art, and general sense of intelligence and care. Whatever the case, it turns out the human body puts on one heckuva good show! When a human skeleton comes out and offers to right there, before your very eyes, become a fully formed human being with guts, skin, etc. who are you to refuse? Tonight the human body itself is putting on a show and everyone from the stagehands (the cells) to the players (whether they’re body parts or viruses) is fully engaged and involved. With our narrator’s help we dive deep beneath the skin and learn top to bottom about every possible system our bods have to offer. When all is said and done the readers aren’t just intrigued. They’re picking the book up to read it again and again. Backmatter includes a Glossary of terms and a Bibliography for further reading. I’ve been a big time Maris Wicks fan for years. It started long ago when I was tooling around a MOCCA (Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art) event and ran across just the cutest little paperback picture book. It couldn’t have been much bigger than a coaster and all it was was a story about a family taking a daytrip to the woods. Called Yes, Let’s it was written by Galen Goodwin and illustrated by a Maris Wicks. I didn’t know either of these people. I just knew the book was good, and when it was published officially a couple years later by Tanglewood Publishing I felt quite justified. But for all that I’d been a fan, I didn’t recognize Ms. Wicks’ work or name, at first, when she illustrated Jim Ottaviani’s Primates. When the connection was made I felt like I’d won a small lottery. Now she’s gone solo with Human Body Theater and the only question left in anybody’s mind is . . . why didn’t she do it sooner? She’s a natural! Now for whatever reason my four-year-old is currently entranced by this book. She’s naturally inclined to love graphic novels anyway (thank you, Cece Bell) and something in Human Body Theater struck a real chord with her. It’s not hard to figure out why. Visually it’s consistently arresting. Potentially dry material, like the method by which oxygen travels from the lungs to the blood, is presented in the most eclectic way possible (in this case, like a dance). Wicks keeps her panels vibrant and consistently interesting. One minute we might be peering into the inner workings of the capillaries and the next we’re zooming with the blood through the body delivering nutrients and oxygen. The colorful, clear lined style certainly bears a passing similarity to the work of author/artists like Raina Telgemeier, while the ability imbue everything, right down to the smallest atom, with personality is more along the lines of Dan Green’s “Basher Books” series. For my part, I was impressed with the degree to which Wicks is capable of breaking complex ideas down into simple presentations. The chapters divide neatly into The Skeletal System, The Muscular System, The Respiratory System, The Cardiovascular System, The Digestive System, The Excretory System, The Endocrine System, The Reproductive System, The Immune System, The Nervous System, and the senses (not to mention an early section on cells, elements, and molecules). As impressive as her art is, it's Wicks’ writing that I feel like we should really credit here. Consider the amount of judicious editing she had to do, to figure out what to keep and what to cut. How do you, as an author, transition neatly from talking about reproduction to the immune system? How do you even tackle a subject as vast as the senses? And most importantly, how gross do you get? Because the funny bones of 10-year-olds demand a certain level of gross out humor, while the stomachs of the gatekeepers buying the book demand that it not go too far. I am happy to report that Ms. Wicks walks that tightrope with infinite skill. One of the parts of the book I was particularly curious about was the sex and reproduction section. I’ve seen what Robie H. Harris has gone through with her It’s Perfectly Normal series on changing adolescent bodies, and I wondered to what extent Wicks would tread similar ground. The answer? She doesn’t really. Sex is addressed but images of breasts and penises are kept simple to the point of near abstraction. As such, don’t be relying on this for your kid’s sex-ed. There are clear reasons for this limitation, of course. Books that show these body parts, particularly graphic novels, are restricted by some parents or school districts. Wicks even plays with this fact, displaying a sheet covering what looks like a possible penis, only to reveal a very tall sperm instead. And Wicks doesn’t skimp on the info. The chapter on The Reproductive Cycle, for example, contains the delightful phrase, “ATTENTION: Would some blood please report to the penis for a routine erection.” So I’ve no doubt that there will be a parent somewhere who is offended in some way. However, it’s done so succinctly that I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if it causes almost no offense during its publication lifespan (but don’t quote me on that one). If there is a problem with the book it may come right at the very beginning. Our skeleton hero introduces herself and from there you would expect her to jump right in to Human Body Theater with the bones. Instead, the storyline comes to a near screeching halt from the get go with a laborious explanation of cells, elements, and molecules. It’s not that these things aren’t important or interesting. Indeed, you can more than understand why they come at the beginning the way that they do. But as the book currently stands, this section feels like it was added in at the last minute. If it was going to preface the actual “show” then couldn’t it have been truly separate from the main event and act as a kind of pre-show entertainment? What parent wouldn’t admit a bit of a thrill when their kid points to their own femur and declares proudly that it’s the longest bone in the human body? Or off-the-cuff speculates on the effects of the appendix on other body functions? We talk a lot about children’s books that (forgive the phrase) “make learning fun”, but how many actually do? When I wrack my brain for fun human body books, I come up surprisingly short. Here then is a title that can push against a certain kind of reader’s reluctance to engage with science on any level. It’s for the science lovers and graphic novel lovers alike (and lord knows the two don’t always overlap). More fun than it has any right to be. No bones about it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    First Second Books

    Maris Wicks draws the most adorable human body parts probably ever! (I mean, did you guys see the dancing bone on this cover? It's a bone! And it's dancing! So adorable, I can't even.) Maris is all about kids learning things in an interesting and fun way, and that's what this anatomy book is, too -- it's all you want to know about the human body, plus everything with a tiny cute face, and puns! How can you resist?

  3. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    I read this graphic novel aloud with my 8 year old and we both loved it. I love that it is packed full of information told in an interesting format, and my daughter loved the cute illustrations. We both learned a lot and my daughter has decided this is her new favorite book. You know it's good when she asks to start back at the beginning as soon as we finish the book!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

    This took me longer than expected. It wasn't a hard read, just you start to think about your own body and how it works. Love the cartoon humor. Oddly helps me learn things better. Wicks doesn't have everything, but enough. Also, she talks about pee, poop, puberty, vomit, and other stuff our body do the might come off as gross, but everyone does it, plus the poop is smiling, so cute HAHA. I'll probably looking at this book from time to time for a quick reference. Trying really hard to learn about This took me longer than expected. It wasn't a hard read, just you start to think about your own body and how it works. Love the cartoon humor. Oddly helps me learn things better. Wicks doesn't have everything, but enough. Also, she talks about pee, poop, puberty, vomit, and other stuff our body do the might come off as gross, but everyone does it, plus the poop is smiling, so cute HAHA. I'll probably looking at this book from time to time for a quick reference. Trying really hard to learn about my body and stay out of the ER.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tracy

    Delightful!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mary Lee

    There is so. much. information. in this book! I think it's the kind of book that could last a lifetime, and a reader would get different facts and even read it differently at various ages and phases. I can't even imagine all the research behind this book, and yet it is very kid friendly. What they don't understand, they can skip for later.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dov Zeller

    I was excited to get this one from the library, but I was not drawn into it at all. I didn't even get a third of the way through. This is one of those books that is simply using a gimmick to try to make learning about science "more fun" and usually these things are not that interesting in the end.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Laura (Book Scrounger)

    My kids (4 and 7) loved it when I read this to them, even though there was a lot of information. It's been one of their favorite books of the school year so far. I may not always enjoy graphic novels, but now I'll never question whether they can be used to present important information in an engaging, fun, reader-friendly format. It's like the perfect cross between a child's science textbook and a comic book. I learned a few things myself, and getting to really see the relationship between body My kids (4 and 7) loved it when I read this to them, even though there was a lot of information. It's been one of their favorite books of the school year so far. I may not always enjoy graphic novels, but now I'll never question whether they can be used to present important information in an engaging, fun, reader-friendly format. It's like the perfect cross between a child's science textbook and a comic book. I learned a few things myself, and getting to really see the relationship between body systems was helpful. Even when the text was humorous and the images presented used non-anatomical analogies (for example, showing an antibody storage room for the immune system), these served to enhance the information rather than distract from it. The "host" is Bones, a skeleton, who deftly leads us through several "acts" of the human body systems, introducing us to all kinds of interesting characters, from a chorus line of germs to the five oversized senses, to the poor "finger" who has to serve as an example of many different body problems. Despite these characterizations, most things are drawn realistically, and lots of scientific words are introduced. This was a big win for us and I'm sure we'll revisit it in later years. Just a note to parents and teachers: Chapter 8, "Guys and Dolls" discusses reproductive systems, and while it doesn't depict any sexual acts, it does get pretty clear about some of the changes in puberty (menstruation) as well as describing erections. It does this in a very relaxed and amusing way, but I'm glad I read ahead so I could skip a few parts I didn't think my kids were ready for -- if you have younger kids you might want to do the same just so you're not surprised!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Amy Layton

    This was probably the most entertaining book on the topic of human biology that I've ever read.  So much of what I read here I previously knew through panicking and scouring WebMD (thanks, ear infections!), and I only wish that I had a book like this so much sooner.  It's fun, cute, and a graphic novel, so really, what's not to love?  I mean, do you SEE those dancing body parts on the cover?? But for real, this book does an absolutely fantastic at breaking down the human body into basics (and the This was probably the most entertaining book on the topic of human biology that I've ever read.  So much of what I read here I previously knew through panicking and scouring WebMD (thanks, ear infections!), and I only wish that I had a book like this so much sooner.  It's fun, cute, and a graphic novel, so really, what's not to love?  I mean, do you SEE those dancing body parts on the cover?? But for real, this book does an absolutely fantastic at breaking down the human body into basics (and then some).  Sure, our body parts are made of cells, but what exactly are those made of?  And how do cells interact with each other?  Why are they so different?  What do they do?  All of these questions are answered in a logical way, going from bone, to muscle, to organs, and more! What I thought was done exceptionally well, however, were the bits on reproductive organs.  It wasn't super cutesy or too clinical--just perfect, in my opinion, for not being too embarrassing for the younger reader to read or see.  This chapter discusses the different ways in which female and male bodies grow through puberty, what to expect when you're older, how a fetus is made, and how that fetus is born.   All topics were handled gracefully and educationally, making this a graphic novel that even the most strict parents can't say no to! Review cross-listed here!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sofia C

    The "Human Body Theater" by Maris Wicks is a very fun, but educational book. It talks about different parts of your body and how they work. But the way they show you is very interesting, and they make lots of jokes. I would recommend this book because you are learning a lot of things, but reading it in a fun way! That's why "Human Body Theater" is a very good book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ada

    This book was a great read. It had plenty of pictures and diagrams to illustrate the human body and everything was very clear and easy to understand. I also learnt a lot on the way. The vocabulary was very well explained and it was an interesting read. It was not boring at all and it is the best biology/human body book that I’ve ever had the opportunity to read!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kaia

    My ten-year-old son and I LOVED this book. It is informative and funny, and the illustrations are fabulous. Who knew that body parts, molecules, and even partially digested food could be cute? I don't think I have ever before read a nonfiction science book where I was sad that it ended.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tia

    This is a wonderfully illustrated graphic novel about the human body. I read this out loud with my 3 daughters and they all loved it. It is packed full of information that is presented in a fun and entertaining way. Definitely recommend for all ages.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Leann

    5/2018 - Skimmed this. Really surprised at the level of accurate detail! Could definitely be used as a supplement to an upper elementary/middle school science class, or for any kids who are super into biology.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Aya Kim

    So wierd

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mandy

    This was a cute, informative read! I really enjoyed it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ali Awesome

    This book is so awsome! Full of great books!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kristin

    I really liked this book and think it was beautifully done. The illustrations are fun and it does a great job of explaining how the body works in a very straight forward way. I think that the section of the reproductive system was very well done. I would have given this a higher rating, but there were a few factual inaccuracies in the book. 1) The misuse of the word "theory" to describe the different ideas as to why humans yawn. In science, a theory is well-substantiated explanation of some aspe I really liked this book and think it was beautifully done. The illustrations are fun and it does a great job of explaining how the body works in a very straight forward way. I think that the section of the reproductive system was very well done. I would have given this a higher rating, but there were a few factual inaccuracies in the book. 1) The misuse of the word "theory" to describe the different ideas as to why humans yawn. In science, a theory is well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeated. What the author describes is a hypothesis: an idea or set of ideas that is intended to explain facts (ie. an educated guess). I know that is being nitpicky, but this is a science book and the correct terms should be used. 2)In the section about digestion, there is an explanation of different vitamins and minerals. The description of Vitamin D states that it can be found in sunlight. This isn't inaccurate, but not fully explained. The body produces vitamin D as a result of exposure to sunlight. With as much detail as this book goes into explaining the different processes of the human body, a clarification of this statement would have been nice. 3)Towards the end of the book when discussing the skin, the book states that "a little sun exposure will actually help the skin protect itself from future sunburns". This is a myth which has been debunked (Maron, Dina Fine. "Fact or Fiction? A 'Base Tan' Can Protect Against Sunburn", Scientific American, May 22, 2015). If it wasn't for these few things, I would have given this book 5 stars.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Annette

    HUMAN BODY THEATER by Maris Wicks provides an amazing visual introduction to human anatomy. Designed for middle school youth, this work of graphic nonfiction is organized into eleven acts using a theater theme. Hosted by a skeleton, the author takes readers through the body systems layer by layer. The author effectively balances visually-rich diagrams with accurate, scientific narratives to provide a level of depth appropriate for the audience. Tweens and teens working on science reports will find HUMAN BODY THEATER by Maris Wicks provides an amazing visual introduction to human anatomy. Designed for middle school youth, this work of graphic nonfiction is organized into eleven acts using a theater theme. Hosted by a skeleton, the author takes readers through the body systems layer by layer. The author effectively balances visually-rich diagrams with accurate, scientific narratives to provide a level of depth appropriate for the audience. Tweens and teens working on science reports will find the Table of Contents useful in identifying chapters on each of the body systems. Youth will also use the glossary and bibliography as reference sources. Librarians will find a broad readership for this engaging work of nonfiction. This book would be an excellent addition to a growing collection of graphic nonfiction options for middle school youth. Consider developing a display to feature works of STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) graphic nonfiction. To learn more about the author/illustration, follow his blog at http://dotsforeyes.blogspot.com/. Published by First Second, an imprint of Macmillan on October 6, 2015. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Marisa

    I loved this book! It does a great job of sharing what goes on in the human body in a fun and engaging way. I learned a lot of things from this book myself!! I think that it could revolutionize how schools give "the talk" ... Meaning the puberty talk. I think it would be amazing if all schools gave each kid a copy of this book after getting "the talk" at school. Kids (and their parents) can get more information about what is going on with their bodies and read it in the privacy of their own home. I loved this book! It does a great job of sharing what goes on in the human body in a fun and engaging way. I learned a lot of things from this book myself!! I think that it could revolutionize how schools give "the talk" ... Meaning the puberty talk. I think it would be amazing if all schools gave each kid a copy of this book after getting "the talk" at school. Kids (and their parents) can get more information about what is going on with their bodies and read it in the privacy of their own home. I recommended this book for grades 5 and up!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alicia

    This is an epic graphic novel. There is humor and science everywhere, going through the basics and even some minutiae using the body systems as the guide. The coloring is spot-on and the narrator, our sack of bones that becomes a young lady is perfect for explaining everything from how poop is created to which vertebrae are cushioned to allow us to bend and twist to puberty making kids crazy (and smelly). This is an absolute must for instruction and entertainment!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Hillary

    This book was not what I expected. I knew it was about the human body but I guess I just expected a bit more story to complement the nonfiction aspect. That being said, there was a wealth of information in this book, perhaps too much? And while I appreciate the fact when covering the reproductive system- I have qualms with introducing that topic to fourth graders.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    A fun way to teach about the human body and how everything works. I'm a theater buff, so the revue format appealed to me. Dancing body parts, an emcee, labeled diagrams, dancing, vivid colors, and humor make for a big show stopping hit!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    This was cute and informative.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    Really well done, entertaining and educational. A good read for kids to learn all the details about the parts of the body.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ms Threlkeld

    Very informative and accessible graphic novel about the various parts and systems of the human body. Would definitely appeal to upper elementary and middle school students.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

    This is an exceptional book in all ways. It is entertaining, educational, funny, beautiful, and understandable. A must-have for your bookshelf.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Timeea the book lover

    An amazing book about our body!❤✨

  29. 5 out of 5

    Anoush

    A book about the anatomy of the human body in the form of a theater show. Our narrator starts out as a skeleton and by the end has put together all the organ systems and parts to become a normal human being (i.e. no organs or muscles showing). We discuss the expected aspects of anatomy like bones and muscles, but we also discuss hormones and puberty and menstruation and reproduction. They even talk about allergies! -->Humorous aside: I was reading this while waiting for a job interview in a room w A book about the anatomy of the human body in the form of a theater show. Our narrator starts out as a skeleton and by the end has put together all the organ systems and parts to become a normal human being (i.e. no organs or muscles showing). We discuss the expected aspects of anatomy like bones and muscles, but we also discuss hormones and puberty and menstruation and reproduction. They even talk about allergies! -->Humorous aside: I was reading this while waiting for a job interview in a room with many other applicants when I got to the part about what an erection is . . . and I had to put it away. Yes I can read a graphic novel in public, even in a professional setting, but apparently my limit is reading about reproductive organs in a graphic novel in public. Good to know. ;-) That said, I think reproduction was really well handled. It was discussed in a straightforward manner with a bit of humor in the drawing and no shame or secret. Just biology. Very well done. Some of my favorite parts: -The endoplasmic reticulum is "knitting" proteins :-D -All the muscles of the jaw working together can help our back teeth chomp down with a force of 200 pounds! No wonder clenching my teeth gives me such a headache... -the heart of a blue whale is the size of a small car! This book is much more informative than I expected it to be and I learned quite a few things. Even with all that information, I thought it was all presented in a very accessible way and even had me laughing at parts. I think it was extremely well done and am certainly considering adding it to my own personal library.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Becky B

    A graphic novel look at human anatomy and physiology. I have to confess that I read this with an extra-critical eye as a former Biology, AP Biology, and Human Anatomy teacher. I was constantly asking myself if I could have used something like this for teaching those classes. And the answer I kept coming up with was...not quite. I think the problem was an inconsistent level in here. For example, there are labeled diagrams of just about all the bones in the human body (which would only be used for A graphic novel look at human anatomy and physiology. I have to confess that I read this with an extra-critical eye as a former Biology, AP Biology, and Human Anatomy teacher. I was constantly asking myself if I could have used something like this for teaching those classes. And the answer I kept coming up with was...not quite. I think the problem was an inconsistent level in here. For example, there are labeled diagrams of just about all the bones in the human body (which would only be used for Human Anatomy), but there is no close up diagram of the bone structure (no closeup of a compact bone with osteons, Haversian canals, etc.) (which would be needed for even a basic Biology class). There were other things, like the diagram of the heart didn't label the pulmonary artery, the immune system response starts off well and then leaves out T cells, the diagrams of the bones are super detailed and so are the muscles, but then the whole body diagram of the nerves only labels two nerves and three other parts. It was pretty obvious that the author just focused on what interested her, which is fine. Just don't pick this up expecting to get a full human anatomy course. It is something I'd recommend for curious readers but not something that would work as a textbook replacement. You could use it as a text supplement, but probably mainly end up asking what got left out. Notes on content: Obviously, there are blood and guts depicted. The menstruation cycle and how an erection physiologically happens are described (without sexual stimulation details).

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