Monday, May 21, 2012

Seeing Red: The True Story of Blood - a review

Kyi, Tanya Lloyd. 2012. Seeing Red: The True Story of Blood. Illustrated by Steve Rolston. Toronto: Annick Press.

Seeing Red is the odd pairing of a nonfiction chapter book with a comic book featuring goth teenager, Harker.  The comic story line weaves information from the nonfiction text into the evolving tongue-in-cheek story of Harker's acquaintance with a vampire girl who tries to recruit him.  Strangely, it works.

Seeing Red traces the role of blood in history and culture. The seven chapters include "Blood and Ritual," "The Bloody Facts," and "Ties that Bind."  Seeing Red is definitely not a scientific treatment, but nevertheless, readers will learn some interesting science (blood typing, forensics), history (Aztecs, royal bloodlines), and culture (blood in food, rituals).  While some concepts in the printed text will inspire deeper thought, such as blood violence in video games, some breakout illustrated sections are purely for shock entertainment,

That Takes Gall
If you were a Gaul warrior, here's how you'd celebrate a victory:
  • Cut off all your enemies' heads.
  • String the heads together and use them as a necklace for your horse.
  • Sing a victory song.
  • Nail a few heads to the doorway of your house, like hunting trophies.
If you'd won an extra-impressive victory over a particularly dangerous foe, you might want a special souvenir.  In that case, you'd embalm an enemy head in cedar oil and stash it away in a cedar chest.  You could show all your friends the next time they stopped by!
(to accentuate the point, the bullet points are skulls)

Further Reading, Selected Sources and Index round out the book.

I was interested in Seeing Red after hearing a preview in Booklist's April webinar, "You've Got Male: Great New Books for Boys." I requested a review copy, graciously provided by Annick Press. Kirkus gave the book an "anemic" review. I, however, believe it lives up to Booklist's description as one of the new books that will capture "the attention of the often elusive male reader."

Read the first few pages of Seeing Red on the publisher's website.

This one's best for older readers because of its descriptions of ritual sacrifice and cultural mores associated with the female menstrual cycle - very interesting to contemplate why some traditional societies shower girls with gifts and attention, while in other cultures they are isolated (at least the secluded women get out of chores!).  Annick Press suggests age 10 and up.  Make your own decision. I would likely choose a higher age.


  1. Oooh. Very interesting. I love the diverse viewpoints you shared here about readers' responses to the book. I will check it out and see whether my ten year old enjoyed it and share with you.

  2. I do like Tanya Lloyd Kyi's other books, so I will likely pick this up. She is one of Canada's best nonfiction writers, with awards to prove it!

  3. This sounds fabulous. I'm wondering if it would make a good addition to a new list I've started on GoodReads -- Microhistories for Juveniles - Social histories of things, events and people. (Link included below in case your curious to check it out.)
    I'll definitely look for it.
    Thanks for participating in this week's Nonfiction Monday event.


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