by Erika Kimble
illustrated by Laurel Winters
Bandages & Boo-Boos Press
Back Cover: Malcolm Finney, Medical Detective Series: The Case of Itch and Rash, is an adventurous story that explores the skin disease called eczema. It is a book that teaches effected children and their peers about the cause and treatment of this condition. This book delivers a message of empowerment, healthy ideals, and tolerance of those whose skin may look just a little different.
First Sentence: Malcolm may have been the weirdest fourth grader in Milton, but he was the boy you wanted nearby when a health emergency arose.
Carlita is outdoors collecting berries when bees incessantly sting her. Malcolm comes to her rescue, and then treats Carlita for the bee stings. Using a pair of tweezers he removes all the stingers and then rubs on a calming lotion to ease the pain. While doing this, Malcolm notices a rash on Carlita’s arm. She, nor her doctors, has any idea what it is, or how to treat it correctly. Malcolm is sure he can figure it out and takes her to his secret lab in the museum.
At his “Mad Scientist Laboratory,” Malcolm solves his toughest cases using a tank of “Intelli-Goo.” Malcolm instructs Carlita to insert her arm into the goo and then remove it, initiating a scan of her arm. Goo oozes out in a stream. Malcolm and Carlita ride the goo wave into the substance on her arm, landing at the hypodermis, or the subcutaneous tissue, which is a coating of fat that supports the layers of skin. The pair next travels under a vein at the bend of Carlita’s elbow scan. Finally, the two scale a hair shaft up to the epidermis, or the top layer of the skin.
The Case of Itch and Rash will interest any middle grade kid interested in medicine. Malcolm is a Doogie Houser for the twenty-first century, only without the license to practice medicine. Most of the story is in voice bubbles like those used in graphic novels, along with normal text placement. Add in the illustrations and each page becomes very busy. I am not a fan of this layout.
This story seems focused on introducing Carlita, who my guess will become Malcolm’s medical sleuthing partner in future volumes. Carlita would definitely balance his ego. It also introduces Malcolm’s “Mad Scientist Laboratory,” in the science museum and what the “Intelli-Goo” can do. Some of the pages have a small chalkboard, a yellow pad, or both. These carry definitions of scientific terms, such as DNA, asthma, and ceramide. Malcolm explains other terms and the what, where, why, and how of the human body and all its frailties.
The illustrations really tell the story. Nearly every page is edge to edge illustration, sometimes more than one per page. There are no full spread illustrations. I do not like the facial expressions on Malcolm and Carlita. On one, Malcolm is surprised that Carlita’s father curates the museum where his father works as an inventor. He is showing his surprise, but the illustration has his mouth open and added eyes that look distressed. Malcolm looks like he is saying “Aw” while sticking out his tongue. All that is missing is a tongue depressor. The characters are nice, but the expressions on both their faces really need more attention. I don’t think more than one or two work.
The Case of Itch and Rash is a good book for the classroom. It goes more in depth than would a story with medical information in a sidebar, or as part of the story. Malcolm and Carlita introduce terms most often found in biology books. Used in the classroom, the stories this series will undertake can help kids remember physical science presented in—what are often dry—biology books. In the home, the Malcolm Finney Medical Detective Series can help kids study and remember the subject of each story.
In The Case of Itch and Rash the case is about discovering what caused a rash on Carlita’s skin. In doing this, the author introduces the skin and many of its parts. The cartoon characters of the epidermis will give kids a trigger when remembering this content. The books have sections that will remain the same, making it easier for kids to move on to successive volumes of the series. The outline replicates the procedure medical offices normally use when presented with a case.
First is the evaluation, followed by a physical examination. After x-rays taken and other tests is the Investigation phase. This leads into the Diagnosis (Dx) and the remedy—here called The Rx, or prescription The final chapter is called the Follow-up. If each case Malcolm Finney, Medical Detective undertakes follows this outline, the series will become a resource kids can easily use and find information they need.
The author includes a glossary of each term used in the story, treatment options for the diseases presented—in Book 1 they are eczema, asthma, and allergies—and places kids can turn to if they need more information than she has supplied. At the website of the publisher, teachers and parents will finds lots of resources. Other items include, a medical kit is available for kids in addition to T-shirts.
Erika Kimble website Facebook illustrated by Laurel Winters website Facebook Bandages & Boo-Boos Press (SP) website Released on August 11, 2012 ISBN: 978-0-9859508-0-4 50 pages Ages: 6 to 11
Book 2: The Case of the Sugar Monster is due out Spring 2013
Copyright © 2012 by Bandages & Boo-Boos Press, used with permission. Text: copyright © 2012 by Erika Kimble Illustrations: copyright © 2012 by Laurel Winters