“Transmissions: Gone Viral,” New York Hall of Science
The mystery begins with a dead crow. Soon three curious children — the friends Rani and Maria, and Maria’s little brother, Eduardo — discover other deceased birds. They learn that the siblings’ grandmother has been hospitalized with a high fever. More people fall ill. With the aid of adult scientists and their own meticulous investigation, the young heroes finally identify a microbial culprit. Spoiler alert: It’s not the new coronavirus.
“Transmissions: Gone Viral,” a graphic novel developed by the New York Hall of Science and available free on its website, was inspired by the West Nile virus. First detected in New York City in 1999, West Nile cannot spread person to person. But like the coronavirus, it originated in animals, and during the current crisis, the museum recommends this fictionalized account as an educational resource.
The novel is also terrific (and not alarmist) entertainment. Intended for middle-schoolers, “Transmissions” includes character portraits, a science glossary and the photo blog Maria keeps. When read online, the five chapters are interactive: You click on symbols to see microscope slides, specimens and further information. Written by Karen de Seve and illustrated by Charlie LaGreca, the book features an electronic exercise to map patterns in the viral outbreak. Another game, Gone Viral!, lets you play a pathogen out to infect the world — one competition I didn’t mind losing.
LAUREL GRAEBER, New York Times