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Invisible Allies: Microbes That Shape Our Lives (Bccb Blue Ribbon Nonfiction Book Award (Awards)) Hardcover – March 24, 2005


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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 6 Up–While Farrell's Invisible Enemies (Farrar, 1998) presented the struggle against disease-causing microbes, this lively and engaging companion offers intriguing insight into those that play a more helpful role in shaping our lives. The variety necessary for human survival is simply astonishing, and the author presents many of them in captivating detail. The book begins with a brief introduction to and history of these organisms. Chapters are devoted to the historical importance of food preservation and the use of microbes in producingcheese, bread, and chocolate. Information on the microbes necessary to digest such a meal and then to decompose it is included. The final chapter provides an exhaustive description of a waste-treatment plant. Complementary black-and-white photographs and illustrations are included throughout the text. This is a fascinating read, as well as a source of useful information for reports.–Maren Ostergard, Bellevue Regional Library, WA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gr. 6-9. The author of Invisible Enemies (1998), Farrell now offers a fascinating, broad-ranging and imminently readable book on the beneficial roles of microbes. After stating some amazing facts about microbes and advising readers against "running, somewhat futilely, for a bar of soap," the introduction provides a vivid picture of Antony van Leeuwenhoek's discovery of microorganisms in 1676. The chapters that follow consider beneficial microbes in the production of bread, cheese, and chocolate as well as their vital role in the gut, where they break down certain foods, kill harmful microbes, and enable certain genes in the intestines to maximize digestion. Finally, Farrell explains the process by which microbes dispose of human waste in sewage treatment plants, noting that they are also used to clean up oil spills and toxins in the environments. Illustrations include photos as well as interesting archival material. Without talking down to her audience or hyping the grosser aspects of the subject, Farrell presents what is known about beneficial microbes and acknowledges the ongoing study of these amazing life-forms. Carolyn Phelan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 - 17 years
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 1270L (What's this?)
  • Series: Bccb Blue Ribbon Nonfiction Book Award (Awards)
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR); 1st edition (April 12, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374336083
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374336080
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 0.8 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,119,734 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By mom_in_Austin on June 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover
My 10 year old son came across this book at our local library and checked it out. We've been reading it together for the past two days and found it very interesting (and not too difficult for my 10 yr old to understand although I had to help him with latin names for various bacteria). The bits of history mixed with science made the book fun & interesting to read :-)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By P. Ciccone on May 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I found this book immensely interesting, actually I'm still reading a library copy, and just came online to order one for me, my sister, and my dad - my mom will like it too! If your into how fermented food works, it's fascinating. We truly live in amazing world. I'm going to get her other book too!
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By Gena Fleming on September 1, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I love this book! I first found it at a high school library where I was teaching; I've now read it several times. This is actually a cutting edge topic in health and nutrition. Knowing that 90% of who we are is not us has profound implications on how we view our relationship to the rest of the living world.

The author presents the information in a way that is easy to understand and yet fascinating to people of all ages. The author has researched her topic, writes with clarity and insight, and chooses the most relevant and engaging examples of how invisible microbes support our lives.

I recommend this book to young and old readers alike.
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