Microbes for Minis

Oct. 6, 2017

Just over a year ago, I became a mom. During that time, I was also introduced to the many strange and fascinating microbiological events that surround the birth and maturation of an infant. For instance, the seeding of my son’s microbiome from mine and the impact of my breast milk and early food exposure on the maturation of his microbiome. In the months leading up to his birth and over the last year I’ve read and learned so much about these topics, but now that my son is practically a toddler, there’s a new microbiology question to tackle… how do I inoculate him with a thirst for microbiological knowledge?

2017.10.6 think alot tots

Looking for answers, my first stop was the local library. Our district library has an impressive selection, but the microbial pickings were slim. Especially for the toddler. And more disappointing still, most of the books referred to microbes solely as “germs.” The vast world of microbiology from Leeuwenhoek’s animalcules to cave-dwelling extremophiles to the microbes that ferment chocolate was all distilled into a single, narrow view of bugs that make you sick.

Fortunately, I’m not the first to notice this “gap in the literature,” and a Google search revealed not only a selection of self-published books on Amazon but even one from ASM.

microbiology ABCs bookDr. Thomai Dion authored and self-published the children’s book How Many Microorganisms? Dr. Dion’s illustrations are striking in their simple, hand-sketched elegance and pastel colors. In this addition to her “Think-A-Lot-Tots” series, children count their way through six main types of microbes,along the way learning about bacterial morphology, how protozoa move and where we can find yeast. While mentioning that some bacteria can make you sick, Dr. Dion illustrates the diverse places bacteria and archaea can live.

Another self-published selection is Bacteria and Antibiotics by Dr. Margot and Antonis Alesund. The microbes in this book are adorable, with bright colors and big googly eyes that captured my 13-month-old’s attention. The first in the “Baby Medical School” series, “Bacteria and Antibiotics” tells the story of our microbiomes, the origin of antibiotics and how bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics. Future titles in the series will discuss vaccines and immunology.

Microbiology for kids book

Two of the books I found use the alphabet to survey the worlds of microbiology. With it’s bold colors, simple drawings and Crayola font, Microbiology ABC’s is a book for the precocious preschooler. In only a sentence or two, Michael Joseph Bacotti, Sr. introduces his young readers to cell biology and microbiology concepts ranging from immunology to viruses.

Algae, bacteria and cows (yes, cows… ruminators require microbial partners, too!) are just the beginning of Rodney P. Anderson’s The Invisible ABC’s. Published by ASM Press, this book uses a combination of captivating photographs to illustrate the beauty and diversity of microbes. The book’s thought provoking “what if” questions and simple explanations cater to the slightly older, elementary-school-age reader and demonstrate how microbes are woven throughout our everyday life.

For the older micro(be?) enthusiasts, there’s Basher Science: Microbiology and The Adventures of the Regatjes. Basher Science uses fun characters to introduce microbial characters like the pandoravirus, HIV, and slime mold and concepts like antimicrobial resistance and quorum sensing. Written by Susan Nasif, Volume 1 of “The Adventures of the Regatjes” uses comics to follow an adventurous group of children as they tackle vaccinations and the immune system. It’s available for free a page at a time on her blog, Cimaza Virology Comics.

Susan Nasif, Volume 1 of The Adventures of the Regatjes

For when my son gets older, I’ll have my favorite intro to microbiology book, Microbe Hunters by Paul de Kruif. I can’t wait for him to follow de Kruif through the adventures of early microbiologists like Leeuwenhoek, Pasteur, and Koch.

If you’re a regular purveyor of this blog and/or follow ASM on social media, then you might have a fascination for microbes too. And you might also have a young learner in your life who you’d like to share that fascination with. I’m excited to have found so many options only a click away. I hope you’ll join me in spreading the microbial love and share some of your favorite kid’s science books below!

Author: Ada Hagan

Ada Hagan
Senior Contributor Dr. Ada Hagan works with the ASM Journals Chair Dr. Pat Schloss in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Michigan. Her postdoctoral research focuses on representation and bias in scientific publishing, focusing on the field of microbiology. In addition to diversity, equity and inclusion, Ada is an advocate for science communication and research trainees. You can follow her on Twitter @adahagan.