Made of the right studd: Horrible Science: Blood, Bones and Body Bits by Nick Arnold and Tony De Saulles
‘What a piece of work is man,’ said Hamlet. After reading the new edition of Blood, Bones and Body Bits he might amend that to, ‘What a gooey, watery, bloody piece of work is man.’ Written by Nick Arnold and illustrated by Tony De Saulles, this latest instalment of the Horrible Science series is at turns stomach-churning and spine-tingling, but above all it is, like its subject matter, fascinating and worth looking after.
Our imaginary stimulus on this gelatinous journey is a monster in the mould of Frankenstein’s. The book begins rather morbidly by suggesting ways one could procure a corpse, which was a serious roadblock for the pioneers of surgery. Body snatched, we come to the, ahem, heart of the matter. What are the key ingredients in a fully functioning body and what do they all do?
The human body is not just a wildly intricate web, but also a minefield of body-part puns. We learn that one’s blood really is thicker than water (three times so), that one’s heart is literally in the right place and that if we saw our guts we probably wouldn’t be able to stomach them…
There are plenty of gags, but the story also delights with alliteration, amusing illustrations and nods to all the hopes and fears children may have about their growing selves. Guiding us through all the tubes and cavities is a wide-eyed grasshopper, whose expression ranges from bored to scared to blown away. At the really gruesome bits he puts his hands to his mouth in an amusing little warning. I’d grown quite fond of him by the end.
The body’s ability to nauseate is the book’s main selling point. Although Arnold certainly plays to it (though never unnecessarily), it actually only forms a small part of the narrative. And it is a narrative: after all the ingredients have been assembled and poured out and pored over we end with ‘Appalling Old Age.’ It seems a sad way to conclude this fun and absorbing tale. Thankfully, the epilogue, ‘The Horrible Truth’, wraps things up on a blindingly obvious yet uplifting note: ‘Treat your body well and it’ll last a lifetime.’
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