One Nurse. Trillions of microbes. A deadly WWI battle. In France of 1916, battlefield nurse Sister Annie Barnaby encounters a strain of lethal bacteria while treating a patient with dysentery. This army of bacteria invades deep into her gut, rallying the resident microbes to fight for their lives—and hers! Enter the phage, deadly microscopic predators, ready to wage war and protect their host. This graphic novel examines what happens when bacteria attacks the body and how the body's defenses respond, drawing upon parallels to wartime combat.
"A nurse's gastrointestinal battle with dysentery is paired with the horrors of World War I trench warfare in this graphic novel. It is 1916, and Annie, a white Australian nurse stationed in France, is tending to the wounded who come pouring in from the Western Front. But another fight, unbeknownst to her, is going on in her gastrointestinal tract. A wounded man she treats has bloody diarrhea that turns out to be dysentery. Annie is accidentally contaminated with the bacteria. How she gets infected is rather gross—but that's this story's strength. Blood, mucous, diarrhea, amputated limbs, death—it's all here, presented in a frank way. While Annie's story is fictional, the events of the war and the biology presented are fact, detailed further in extensive backmatter. The black-and-white illustrations tell it like it is—when Annie has diarrhea, she is shown sitting on the toilet. But it is the panels and storyline about the microbes that highlight both the illustrator's and authors' skills. The battle between the Shigella (dysentery-causing) bacteria and the many kinds of viruses, bacteroides, prevotella, and other microorganisms that Annie's body activates to defend itself has the tension of an epic battle, and readers will alternately be gripped with anxiety (will the good microbes win?), filled with wonder at the amazing defenses of the human body, and grossed out (talking about you, mucous.) Grossly fabulous."—starred, Kirkus Reviews—Journal
"Here's the most bizarre concept of the year, possibly ever: splitting the story's perspective between a WWI nurse who contracts a deadly case of dysentery and the dysentery itself. Yes, you read that correctly. While we follow Sister Annie, an empathic nurse, through rounds in a WWI Casualty Clearing Center, we also follow the Shiga Gang, the Shigella Flexner bacteria infecting her innards ('Sweet! Now we gonna partay!' shout the bacteria) as her immune system mounts a counterattack. Perhaps this inner struggle is a metaphor for the devastating war raging outside, and then, perhaps, it's actually the other way around. In any case, it could be difficult to sell such a concept to most tween readers, and not just because bloody feces play such a central role. However, Wild and Barr have a contagious passion for their subject, and leaving this out for casual browsing could work wonders—the cool/gross supermagnified depictions of bacteria and viruses help considerably. Includes explanatory text on both the history and the science, which it will be very helpful to read first."—Booklist—Journal
"Science and history blend in this tale of two intertwined battles. The first is the story of World War I nurses from Australia fighting to save soldiers injured in the 1916 Battle of Pozières in France. The second takes place on a microscopic level and involves the gut microbes of Nurse Annie Barnaby. Exposed to dysentery from an ill soldier, Barnaby's body works to fight the deadly Shigella flexneri bacteria. Black-and-white illustrations move seamlessly between the microscopic world and the battlefront hospital, accompanied by expository text when necessary. Particularly helpful is the final section, which answers questions such as, 'Where Was the Western Front?' and 'Why Are There So Many Bacteria in the Gut?' The interdisciplinary approach of this historical graphic novel is unique and instructive. VERDICT A complementary text to science and history curricula."—School Library Journal—Journal
Ailsa Wild is a performer, artist, and the author of The Squid, the Vibrio and the Moon; Zobi and the Zoox; and the Squishy Taylor series. The Invisible War is her first graphic novel. She lives in Australia.
Dr. Jeremy Barr served as the science adviser on The Invisible War and is also a lecturer at Monash University's School of Biological Sciences in Melbourne, Australia.
Dr. Gregory Crocetti worked for a decade as a microbial ecologist before cofounding Scale Free Network. His goal is to teach the world that microbes are marvelous. He lives in Australia.
Ben Hutchings's work appears all over, from children's comics to magazines for prison inmates. Ben was a cofounder of Australia's first cartoonists' studio, Squishface Comic Studio, where he works as a freelance cartoonist.