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The Invisible War

Cover: 'The Invisible War '

Staff Review: "The Invisible War " by Ailsa Wild


World War I was a time of great changes when it came to warfare - from mustard gas to the Browning Automatic Rifle, the way the world fought wars had changed. Unfortunately, medical science hadn't caught up with many of these changes. Soldiers suffered from debilitating wounds that often led to a slow, painful death or traumatic amputations. Many soldiers suffered from diseases that today are easily treated, including influenza, tuberculoses, and typhoid. The Invisible War highlights one of these terrible infections and the ease with which it was passed from person to person. 

The book starts with Sister Annie, a nun tasked with helping to run a casualty clearing station in northern France. One of her patients is brought in suffering from what seems to be a simple case of diarrhea. However, when Sister Annie examines his clothing, she realizes he has contracted dysentery. From this point on, we get to see the lives of the germs that cause dysentery. Sister Annie is exposed when a fly lands on the soldiers soiled clothing and then lands on some cheese brought to her by a friend. We see how these germs infect the digestive system causing dehydration and bloody diarrhea.

The illustrator of the graphic novel does an amazing job of showing how debilitating the disease is without getting too gross - there are images of patients who have soiled themselves and their undergarments, but it never crosses the line of being disgusting. Icky definitely, but not over the top. The images of the gut, with the anthropomorphized germs and immune system cells, do a great job for helping younger teen readers understand how the disease affects the tissues of the digestive tract and how the immune system releases cells to fight the invaders. 

Overall, it is a worthwhile look at this dangerous disease that is still around today. 

Audience: teens, tweens | Genre: graphic novel, nonfiction

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