Invisible Allies: Microbes That Shape Our Lives (Bccb Blue Ribbon Nonfiction Book Award by Jeanette Farrell

Summary: Gr. 6-9. The author of Invisible Enemies (1998), Farrell now offers a fascinating, broad-ranging and imminently readable book on the beneficial roles of microbes. After stating some amazing facts about microbes and advising readers against "running, somewhat futilely, for a bar of soap," the introduction provides a vivid picture of Antony van Leeuwenhoek's discovery of microorganisms in 1676. The chapters that follow consider beneficial microbes in the production of bread, cheese, and chocolate as well as their vital role in the gut, where they break down certain foods, kill harmful microbes, and enable certain genes in the intestines to maximize digestion. Finally, Farrell explains the process by which microbes dispose of human waste in sewage treatment plants, noting that they are also used to clean up oil spills and toxins in the environments. Illustrations include photos as well as interesting archival material. Without talking down to her audience or hyping the grosser aspects of the subject, Farrell presents what is known about beneficial microbes and acknowledges the ongoing study of these amazing life-forms. Carolyn Phelan Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Teaching Points: Prediction (Skill)-->Students can examine the roles that microbes play in our world. Student begin with a microbe (cause) and trace the effect it has on the world (effect). By studying this cause and effect relationship, students can use the relationship to make predictions. For instance, students can examine what would happen to the world in the absence of certain microbes.

Classroom Implications:
This text would match well with Invisible Enemies and New York Times Deadly Invaders, especially if the students are in nonfiction book clubs. These nonfiction pieces make great additions to information contained in novels.


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