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Cell Wars II: Virus Invasion, is, amazingly enough, the sequel to Cell Wars: In The Beginning by A. Miles, a book which I have previously reviewed here on Making Them Readers.

front-cover-smaller-version

I was sent this book by a friend of mine, who is a friend of the author. She asked me if it was possible for me to review this for her, as I did the first book in the series. I am disclosing this information so that you know that I have been gifted the book in exchange for my review. I am also reiterating what I make clear with all my review material, that this will not affect my appraisal of the book.  What follows is my honest opinion.

In terms of physical quality of the book I found this somewhat unsatisfactory. There are several typos throughout the text which I found a little annoying.  The layout of the chapters, illustrations and paragraphs is also rather weak, which could lead to some confusion in younger readers, as things do tend to merge rather. Clear layout is crucial for young readers, particularly with tricky text.

The chapters are nice and short however, and the font is clear and large enough to make the text easy to decipher. I also thought that the glossary at the back of the book was excellent, and gives children a thorough but simple description of some of the trickier words and terms in the text. I quite like the cartoon style illustrations by A. Miles, but I would have liked to see more detailed pictures depicting some of the trickier things the book describes happening in the body. I think this would definitely help a child grasp what is going on better.

The story continues where the first book left off, charting the job of the White Blood Cells or WBCs, as they are called in the book, as they work to fight off diseases.  The introductory chapters remind us of the key factors in terms of distinguishing between bacteria and viruses and what the blood cells do, then the story of Bands, the WBC from the first book continues with his further training and his learning to fight the influenza virus.

I really like the idea of the book. It certainly seems to have hit the spot in terms of awards, being awarded the Silver Medal at the Wishing Shelf Independent Book Awards in 2014, and being short listed for the Rubery Book Award in the same year.

I have to say that for me the story is not engaging enough in terms of giving the blood cells distinct personalities. I really liked the red blood cells Haemo and Globin, because they had something about them, and when they die off at the end of the book I was disappointed that they had gone, and also at the matter of fact way the author disposed of them.  I appreciate that the book primarily exists to explain in simple, interesting terms, what is a factual, biological process, but as a reader I am always interested in the narrative thrust, and the more narrative there is, the happier I am. I think that if the author expanded the character profiles of the cells and gave them a bit more back story this would make a brilliant series out of what, so far is just a good one.

Having said that I think children who enjoy factual books will love this mix of fact and fiction and it would make a great transitional book for an independent reader who wants something to get their teeth into. I recommend it for boys and girls aged 7-12. I would suggest a little support with how to pronounce the biological terms might be a good thing just to get them going, as some of these terms are pretty tricky even for adult readers. It would be an excellent support text for primary aged readers who are doing a project on the human body and a brilliant way to introduce biology to children of primary age.

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