cover image The Way We Work: Getting to Know the Amazing Human Body

The Way We Work: Getting to Know the Amazing Human Body

David Macaulay, . . Houghton Mifflin/Lorraine, $35 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-618-23378-6

A Caldecott Medalist and MacArthur Fellow, perhaps best known for his pithily written, illuminatingly illustrated The Way Things Work, Macaulay has devoted himself for years to this illustrated guide aimed at demystifying the workings of the human body. Picture book or not, adults may constitute a significant percentage of its eventual audience. The book is astonishingly comprehensive, beginning with the structure of a cell, traveling through various systems (e.g., respiratory, digestive, etc.) and ending with childbirth. Followers of Macaulay will expect some wit, and it is evident, not just in captions but in throwaways, as in an explanation of taste that acknowledges that smell is “the senior partner.” However, the writing is often highly technical (“When a nonsteroid hormone arrives at its target cell, it binds to a receptor protein projecting from the cell’s surface”). The full-color drawings may help readers understand the language, but despite the friendly format, with one topic per spread, this is not a book for casual browsing nor for most preteens. On the other hand, motivated teens will feel they’ve gone to premed heaven. Ages 10–up. (Oct.)