My new book: Club Microbes

Club Microbe cover


Here’s a review from SLJ:

Club Microbe
By Elise Gravel
Drawn & Quarterly, $17.95

Throughout her career, prolific cartoonist, author and artist Elise Gravel has been fascinated with weird little guys, as seen in her 10-book “Disgusting Critters” series and her 2021 The Bug Club. For her latest work, Gravel looks at the weirdest, littlest guys of all: Microbes.

Club Microbe, a companion of sorts to The Mushroom Fan Club and the aforementioned Bug Club, finds Gravel once again sharing her fascination with a swath of strange living things with her audience of young readers, her easygoing narration, cute drawings and silly jokes belying that it’s actually educational.

“I’ve been waiting forever to write a book on microbes (or germs),” Gravel writes on the opening two-page spread, where we see her cartoon avatar filling the pages with colorful microbes while her dog looks on. “They’re so fun to DRAW.”

From there, she defines what a microbe is, introduces the various families of microbes, and starts unspooling various facts about them. These include how omnipresent they are, how some are bad for us and some are good for us, and their many functions.

Gravel selects some for special highlighting, based on how cool-looking they are or how useful or unusual some form of behavior of theirs may be. In one section, she muses on their cool-sounding names, and in another she lists the ways she lives in harmony with her microscopic neighbors.

On the end pages there are quite beautiful, photorealistic images of microbes, but those throughout the book are drawn in Gravel’s signature style, achieved mostly by taking scientifically accurate drawings of various microbes and adding googly eyes to them.

“Microbes are living beings, but they aren’t animals, plants or insects,” Gravel writes near the beginning. “They don’t have legs, brains, mouths, or eyes. (Except in my drawings.)”

Two large microbes fill the page, both staring out at the reader with wide eyes and talking out of little mouths. “Elise puts eyes on everything!” the first says, while the other, a cycloptic germ with buck teeth, adds, “And little teeth!”

Here then it’s easy to see the resemblance to the stars of her previous “Club” books, which had the very same look in their eyes and pleasant little smiles. Mostly her microbes just stare widely and blankly, their thoughts impenetrable to the reader (perhaps it’s their lack of brains?), though those with speaking parts have a bit more personality than, say, the spread introducing various forms of viruses (including the Coronavirus which has dominated so much of our lives these past few years) and the bacteria.

On the final pages, Gravel again draws herself, this time with her arms wrapped around a giant virus, kissing it on its cheek while it makes a yucked-out face, the pair standing in a crowd of giant-sized microbes.