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Children's Bookshelf

October 05, 1986|KRISTIANA GREGORY

THE MAGIC ANATOMY BOOK, written and illustrated by Carol Donner (W. H. Freeman: $17.95; 149 pp.; age 12 up). Two of my 14-year-old friends looked through these pages and, in unison, said, "How gross!" "Gross" is what twins Max and Molly experience when they magically shrink to the size of ants for a slippery trip within a live human body. The twins and their cat Baxter first land on the tongue, which heaves them into a waterfall of saliva for a trip down the esophagus. Thanks to a floating lettuce leaf the twins are saved from drowning in the stinging "hot soup" of the stomach.

The author must have flipped to her Thesaurus for every other sentence because the scenes are plastered with enough adjectives and adverbs to cover a new library. It's not enough that the stomach churns but it also snarls, writhes, pounds, twists, rubs, grinds and surges, all in half a paragraph, and there's more . The editors should have left Donner alone with her remarkable drawings where her ability to visualize detail is best used. As a respected medical illustrator ("Atlas of Surgical Operations"), she knows how to show us the workings of a lung, a tendon and hundreds of other minuscule parts.

The twins' journey is truly fascinating and in all fairness to Donner, it must be said that by giving voice to white blood cells and a macrophage, she does help us understand their functions. But the question is whether or not young readers will snooze through so much baggy dialogue and description. The concept here is great, and if nothing else, they might stare at the illustrations, though few are captioned. How the twins finally exit the body after their head-to-hip tour is vivid as ever and not as "gross" as my friends had guessed. The large format (9 x 9 1/2), glossary and color diagrams lend a textbook flavor.

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