By Maureen Tai, 31 May 2018
If you are a parent of young children like I am, you will have, at one point or another, yelled at them to stop eating their nose poos or licking elevator buttons because “FOR HEAVENS SAKE, THOSE THINGS ARE FULL OF GERMS!” And your progeny would not have given a monkey’s because, well, let’s face it, no one can see germs can they?
Do not lick this book* (it’s full of germs) attempts to remedy this situation by magnifying some common microbes (by some hundreds of thousands of times), giving them faces, limbs, attractive hues, cute names and quirky personalities, and inviting readers to whisk them off on adventures. Sounds fun? It is!
“This is Min. Min is a microbe. She’s small. Very small.”
Meet Min, a Tic Tac shaped, cornflower blue E.coli bacteria who is the microscopic star of this engaging and unique interactive picture book. Min is bored and listless. She lounges amongst the twisted and gnarled strands which are actually the page of the book, magnified 1,000 times using an electron microscope. This grey-toned microscope photograph of paper is eerie yet compelling to look at.
Dashed lines trace out a small circle on the white page, and within that circle sits Min (and possibly 3,422,166 of her other friends and family). If you touch your finger on that circle, you get to pick Min up and take her on exciting adventures to other magnified destinations. First stop, the craggy surfaces of your teeth. Next stop, the jumbled up spaghetti strands of your shirt. For the finale, the fissured dead skin on your own body.
As all grown-ups know, “GERMS ARE EVERYWHERE!” so it is inevitable that your finger, in addition to transporting Min, will pick up a handful of other microbes – a streptococcus bacteria, an aspergillus niger fungus and a pear-shaped corynebacterium. You’ve never seen such adorable germs. Min and her new friends are delightfully rendered by Julian Frost, the creator of the extremely clever and entertaining Dumb Ways to Die which Anna introduced to me some years ago. I latterly discovered that this hilarious YouTube video was part of an Australian train company’s campaign to promote rail safety. Those Aussies are a funny people.
This picture book is a wonderful introduction to the unseeable, and tons of fun to boot (Ben took Min and her pals on detours to other parts of his body which had him in gales of laughter and me shaking my head in chagrin). Whether Do not lick this book will discourage my children from their unsanitary pursuits, of course, remains to be seen.
Ages 5 and up.