Pandemic Planet – How Diseases Impact Our World by Anna Claybourne

The Blurb On The Back:

Pandemic Planet

Beginning in late 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic spread rapidly around the world, causing the deaths of millions of people and leading to closed schools, empty streets and shuttered businesses.

But viruses and pandemics have been part of human history for thousands of years, from the Black Death to SARS.  PANDEMIC PLANET looks at what pandemics are, how they spread and how we deal with them.  It explores how we arm ourselves against dangerous diseases, from developing groundbreaking new vaccines to simple, individual measures such as washing your hands and wearing a face mask.  It also looks at how and what we learn from pandemics, as well as some of their surprisingly positive outcomes.

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

You can order PANDEMIC PLANET by Anna Claybourne from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

Anna Claybourne is an experienced writer of non-fiction for children.  This reassuring and informative illustrated book about pandemics and diseases for readers aged 9+ is part of a series about issues related to the planet and will particularly help them to make sense of the recent COVID-19 pandemic.  She does a great job of breaking down the causes of pandemics but also deals well with the consequences of it and does so without scaremongering.

Claybourne opens the book by talking about the COVID-19 pandemic – what it was and what the effects were – so that readers can immediately relate the content of the book to what they have recently been through.  She then explains what pandemics generally are, how they’re caused (offering a handy breakdown of what germs are) and runs through some of the big pandemics of history including case studies of the Black Death, the 1918 flu pandemic and COVID-19.  She also talks about immunity and vaccines and runs through the various stages of a pandemic (including the problems that they can cause, the process of finding a vaccine and then life slowly returning to normal) before talking about how we can stop pandemics from happening (and how we can prepare for them).  

She’s particularly good on looking at the social impacts of pandemics and ties in the factors that may drive the next pandemic (including climate change and antibiotic resistance).  What I really liked though was how she talks about the good that can come out of pandemics (including benefits for the environment and how new ways of living and improve daily life).  In fact, I would have liked it had she drawn this out a bit more because every pandemic seems to lead to positive societal change (e.g. the Black Death led to the end of feudalism, cholera led to better public sanitation and water supply, the flu pandemic led to rapid social change).

Given what young readers have been through over the last few years, I think that this book offers them a really good way of processing and understanding it.  Claybourne does not patronise the reader and yet communicates in easy to understand language that’s well supported by the illustrations (which draw out key elements in her messaging).  She also includes a comprehensive glossary at the back and a suggested reading list if you want to know more about the topic.  

All in all, this is a well put together, informative read that is reassuring but also a good introduction to young readers about the subject and as such, well worth a look.

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