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It is well established that at a certain age children become fascinated with all things gross and repulsive. The new book for older elementary and middle grades, ICK!: Delightfully Disgusting Animal Dinners, Dwellings, and Defenses by Melissa Stewart, uses that interest to entice kids to learn about an amazing variety of animals.

Not for the squeamish or easily offended reader, Ick! explores animals that eat, defend themselves, or live inside revolting things like poop, slimy mucus, spit, and vomit.

Melissa Stewart is a renowned children's science writer and she has done an outstanding job in finding weird and wonderful examples. Some might be familiar, like dung beetles that raise their offspring in balls of manure, but others are exotic, like the bone-eating snot flower worm. What a name!

What is even better is that she sneaks in a lot of biology concepts and vocabulary. Do you know what a cecotrope is? You'll learn that in the very first section. At the same time, you will find that what at first glance seems really repulsive is actually part of an animal's way of surviving and isn't as disgusting as you might imagine.

The book is illustrated with eye catching photographs -- as we've come to expect from National Geographic -- that bring the text to life.

For example, can you see the bubble around the fish in the middle? It is actually a floating wrapping of slippery slime. The fish spends the night within the mucus blob to protect itself. Tissue anyone?

ICK! will grab the attention of young readers interested in STEM -- particularly budding biologists -- who will likely memorize sections to impress and gross out their friends. The visually attractive layout and yuck factor will also appeal to many reluctant readers. Hold onto your stomach and explore a copy today!

Related:

To expand on the book, find your own icky critter and research its habits.

In honor of National Moth Week (July 18-26, 2020), we chose a small group of unusual moths that fit right in with the other animals in the book.

Sloth moths get their name from the fact they spend their lives riding on South American sloths. Being a hitchhiker doesn't seem all that gross until you find out that the moths are waiting for the sloth to climb down from the trees to go to the bathroom, something it does only about once a week. When the sloth poops, the female moths hop off and lay their eggs in the excrement. The larvae (caterpillars) feed on the poop, and after completing their life cycles, fly around to find another sloth to sit on.

PBS NOVA has an animated video that shows the sloth moth life in detail.

Aren't moths amazing?


And so is Ick!

Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Publisher: National Geographic Children's Books (June 23, 2020)
ISBN-10: 1426337469
ISBN-13: 978-1426337468

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.


Looking for more children’s nonfiction books? Try the Nonfiction Monday blog.

Today we have the lovely picture book, Seashells: More Than a Home by team who brought us the fabulous Feathers:  Not Just for Flying (previous review),  Melissa Stewart and Sarah S. Brannen.

 

This title really stands out because it does so much more than describe or identify shells a child might find on the beach. Instead, it breathes life into the creatures that inhabit different seashells by showing how all the various sizes, shapes, and colors help the members of the Phylum Mollusca -- or mollusks -- survive.

How good is it? My friend who is a retired school librarian and I discovered this book on the library shelf at almost the same time. Deciding to see who got to read it first nearly involved arm wrestling...

Other pluses:

Author Melissa Stewart uses the popular dual-layered text. Younger readers can find out the basics about seashells in the large-sized text at the top of the page, whereas older readers can explore more details with the denser, smaller text further down the page.

Sarah S. Brannen's watercolor illustrations incorporate both the mysterious beauty of the seashells and the delight of children when they discover one.

Seashells:  More Than a Home is a wonderful resource for studies on ocean or beach habitats. It would also make a great gift for nature lovers, especially before a trip to the beach. Discover a copy today!

Suggested activities:

  • See the free, downloadable  7-page Teacher's Guide at Charlesbridge (Click the "downloadables" tab at middle of the page).
  • What happens when you put seashells in vinegar? What does this tell you about what they are made of? (See instructions at Scholastic, for example).
  • Sue at Archimedes Notebook has some great activity suggestions, including an art project and a scavenger hunt. She also has a review of the book.

Age Range: 6 - 9 years
Publisher: Charlesbridge (April 2, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1580898106
ISBN-13: 978-1580898102

Disclosure: This book was provided by our local library. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books. Note: this is a new link as of 10/2018.

Let’s explore another of the fantastic nonfiction children’s books that have been nominated for 2018 Cybils awards.

Although it may seem like a weird to be thinking of seeds and seedlings, in Arizona we plant our fall gardens this month. For that reason, A Seed is the Start by Melissa Stewart is timely.

Although the word "start" in the title and the pictures of sunflowers germinating on the cover suggests this books is about plant life cycles, with exception of a corn kernel germinating on pages 4-5 and an apple seed growing on pages 30-31, this book is about much more. In fact it is mainly about seed dispersal. Whether it is by wind, water, or animal taxi, author Melissa Stewart reveals the many, many ways seeds get around.

The color photographs are high-quality, as you would expect from National Geographic. From flying dandelion seeds to floating cottonwood seeds, the photographs will attract the reader's attention.

A Seed is the Start is a lovely introduction to seeds and seed dispersal. Use it to sprout an interest in plants in a young reader today.

Activity Suggestions To Celebrate the Book:

1. Germinate a pumpkin seed.

Do you have some pumpkin seeds left over from Halloween or from Thanksgiving pies?

They can make an educational germination project.

Gather:
1. Pumpkin seeds (unsalted, raw)
2. Small containers - *see note
3. Potting soil

*Note:  Seeds may be started in almost any recycled container. Old milk cartons, newspaper pots, even empty egg shells can serve as containers. Put an opening in the bottom of the container for drainage and set it in a tray, and/or add some gravel or pebbles to cover the bottom.

Fill the containers with soil. Press one or two seed into the soil so covered slightly. Water until moist and keep watered regularly. Set in a sunny window.

If you prepare several sets, allow the children to carefully remove one or two of the seedlings from the soil over time. Discuss what they see, measure the stems and roots, and make drawings or take photographs to record the progress as the seed germinates and then the plant grows from day to day.

2. See our previous post for a fun quiz and seed dispersal activities.

Age Range: 6 - 9 years
Publisher: National Geographic Children's Books (February 13, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1426329776
ISBN-13: 978-1426329777

Check out our growing list of children's books about seeds at Science Books for Kids.

 

Disclosure: This book was provided by our local library. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.