Score: 91/100 (9.1 out of 10)
Nurse Florence(R) How Do We Grow? is an ambitious, colorful, and highly educational children's book about medical science (and science in general)! This is one in a series of books intended to introduce children to the beauties and wonders of science.
We are so excited for this series and the potential that it holds!
This specific book concerns the question of how human beings grow through the actions of the pituitary gland and HGH (human growth hormone).
Condi, Jean, and Sonia are precocious students who are fascinated by the topics in their science class. They discuss things like the process of photosynthesis (how plants use sunlight, air, and water to produce their energy/food as well as oxygen and sugar).
Along the way, they run into the titular Nurse Florence, a female nurse who wears a hijab, implying she is of Arabic and/or Muslim origins. In our head canon (which may not be accurate) she is from Senegal, something we inferred due to her last name being Florence and because of Senegal's French colonial history.
The students, being curious and eager learners, prompt Nurse Florence to talk to them about how human beings grow. She then goes onto an app (perhaps a medical or science app) that helps her to teach them about the “master” pituitary gland at the base of the brain and the growth hormone that it secretes. Something new to some of us was how she explained how the cells divided into two to cause growth. So even we learned something!
Not only does she talk about growth hormone, but she also lays the seeds of curiosity for the entire endocrine system and other hormones.
Something we loved about this book was the art. It's actually quite good! And, spectacularly, it was done by a 17-year-old named Kylie Yoshida. Could you imagine how much her art will improve with time?
The art isn't perfect, but it is colorful and lively. It almost reminds us of the old art in Sega Genesis or Sierra game cutscenes. If you were around back then, then you know what we mean. If you weren't, then use Google or YouTube.
The writing leaves a little to be desired, not just for the sake of establishing characters and plot, but also in just being appealing in general. Each sentence is double-spaced like it's 1970 and we're using typewriters. This is fine for essays, articles, and even longer books, but it's an eyesore with huge blocks of text with a huge font size.
Secondly, there are no gaps between bits of dialogue. For example, after Nurse Florence says something, Jean replies in the exact same paragraph and in the exact same block of text. That could really be fixed without much effort.
This book and this series have ENORMOUS potential, and we love and admire what they're trying to accomplish. This book does have its weaknesses. First of all, it flies by without establishing characters or plot. We are immediately introduced to Condi, Jean, and Sonia without really getting to know who they are (beyond being students) and what sets them apart from each other. Their dialogue and their names are almost interchangeable. Perhaps this is the fault of just not having read the earlier books in the series, but the truth of the matter is that most readers will only read one book in a series. You have one shot to make the best impression possible.
The other thing that's a little bothersome is that there isn't a clear plot. There's no real reason (beside just being curious) for the students wanting to learn about growth hormone. How much more interesting would it have been if Condi were getting into working out and was wondering why his voice is getting deeper and his arms are getting bigger? What if he were wondering why he's experiencing cramps in his calves at night or why he's so much taller than the girls now? Wouldn't that be so much more natural and understandable then a character just going up to a random nurse character and being like, “NURSE, HOW DO I GET HUUUGE?!”
Remember, characters are only as good as their motivations. Motivations make the character. When characters are just talking heads or mouthpieces for the author, it can seem dry, flat, and unnatural. Yes, you want to teach, but you also need some kind of coherent story. There needs to be a point.
Now, we're happy that this book encourages young people to be curious about science. We're over the moon that this book encourages kids to go to school and to pursue higher education, particularly in the medical field. These are things that are near and dear to our hearts. Some of us have a medical or healthcare background, so we get it. Some of us are educators. This clicks with us.
You can check this out on Amazon!