Saturday 21 October 2023

A Really Short Journey Through the Body

A Really Short Journey Through the Body by Bill Bryson, adapted by Emma Young, illustrated by Daniel Long, Dawn Cooper, Jesus Sotes, Katie Ponder (Puffin) HB RRP $44.99 ISBN 9780241606223

We spend our whole lives in one body and yet most of us have practically no idea how it works and what goes on inside it. Here is a book which any child curious about bodies would thoroughly enjoy for its comprehensiveness and often mind-boggling facts. It is, as the Guardian on the Body says on the cover, ‘A directory of wonders.’

Outlining dozens of chapters, it starts with ‘How to Build a Body’, moves on to cells, DNA, conception to birth and then moves from the skeleton through the organs that make up the body from head to toe. Everything seems to be included from life within the body to life on the body, the body’s systems, infection, allergies, and so much more. Each double page spread is showcases using illustrations, diagrams, and break-out boxes. For the pages on The Mouth, for example, there’s a diagram of an open mouth which is labelled with all its parts; then there’s inside the mouth with parts such as salivary glands, tongue, uvula (yoov-you-la). Yes, there’s information on how to pronounce unfamiliar words. On this page there’s a fascinating fact that salivary glands produce about 1.5 litres of the stuff every day. (According to one calculation, a person produces enough saliva in a lifetime to fill 200 baths).

Throughout the book are other amazing facts, including anecdotes about how scientists, doctors and inventors discovered information relevant to the body. There’s the story, for example, of ‘the most famous stomach’: a young Canadian man was shot in the abdomen and had an open wound for the rest of his life. His doctor, William Beaumont, a surgeon, realised that the inch-wide hold gave him an inside look into his patient’s insides. Before this, no-one knew what happened to food once it disappeared down the throat: Beaumont now did! He discovered, from his experiments, that hydrochloric acid, produced in the stomach breaks food down.

A Really Short Journey Through the Body is so full of facts that it would reward anyone with many hours of fascinating reading: there’s even information on death, and how people in the past have cheated death. There’s an illustrated index at the back of the book, and even something about Bryson’s later book, A Really Short History of Nearly Everything.





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