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Children’s Books: Beguiling Bones and Friendly Monsters

Trick-or-treating and parties may be out this year, but families can at least enjoy a Halloween-adjacent picture book or two. Those who relish the grisly annual display of bones, blood and guts will find a feast for their eyes in “Anatomicum” (Big Picture, 96 pages, $35), an oversize and strikingly elegant picture book dedicated to the parts and systems of the human body. The text, by University of Edinburgh lecturer Jennifer Z. Paxton, is meant to be useful and informative for readers ages 8 to adult—and it is—while Katy Wiedemann’s meticulous ink-and-watercolor illustrations partake just enough of the macabre as to make the book ideal for seasonal purposes. Here are the lidless eyeballs and grinning skeletons of nightmare; ropes of pink muscle, loops of intestine, brains and veins and organs, all exposed and dissected on the page. As Ms. Paxton explains, “the word anatomy comes from the ancient Greek anatome, meaning ‘to cut up.’ ”

The book is part of an exceptional series titled “Welcome to the Museum,” which gives a kind of gallery-exhibition treatment to nonfiction topics. Earlier books, by various authors and illustrators, explore botany, evolution and the ancient artifacts of human civilization, and they’re all beautiful. I should emphasize that “Anatomicum” is not trying to frighten anyone. The book presents the human body as a marvel, a “living machine constructed from hundreds and thousands of parts, all working together to make us who we are,” as the author puts it. It is our imaginations, the after-effects of a thousand scary stories, and perhaps the unnerving similarities between dissection and butchery that give us the creeps.

To a young child in the right frame of mind, anything can become “scary”—not in the sense of giving actual fear but of producing giddy, half-terrified delight. The prolific Lucy Cousins, creator of

Article source: https://www.wsj.com/articles/childrens-books-beguiling-bones-and-friendly-monsters-11602859798

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