Skip to content

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.

For STEM Friday we are highlighting a fantastic book for upper elementary-aged children, Amazing Amphibians: 30 Activities and Observations for Exploring Frogs, Toads, Salamanders, and More by Lisa J. Amstutz (her website).

If you've never experienced one of the Young Naturalists series books from Chicago Review Press, you are in for a real treat. These books are designed not only for children who are independent researchers interested in a topic -- in this case amphibians -- but also for educators who need information and age-appropriate activity ideas for science lessons.

Lisa Amstutz's text covers everything readers will want to know:

  • What an amphibian is
  • What animals belong to the different families
  • Amphibian anatomy
  • What amphibians eat
  • Their life cycles
  • Some of the threats to amphibians
  • And much more!

It is also filled with amazing facts. Did you know that the North American wood frog can survive being frozen solid? How about that some amphibians can absorb water from moist soil by sitting on it because they have specially absorptive skin on their bellies? Wouldn't it be nice to be able to drink that way?

The activities (30 of them!) will keep young scientists engaged for hours. They range from making fake frog eggs from water beads to making your yard more toad friendly.

Some readers may initially think less of the book when they learn the illustrations are color stock photographs, with many coming from Wikimedia Commons. The quality of stock photographs, however, is determined by the person curating them and in this case the photographs are the highest standard, well-matched to the text and to each other.

The back matter is a treasure trove filled with goodies such as a table of the different amphibian orders, lists of resources, and a teacher's guide with even more ideas for activities.

Personal Note:  I absolutely love these Chicago Review Press books and I use them all the time. The activities encourage the type of hands-on learning that develops fine motor skills so useful later in life. They also reinforce learning. Let's face it, touching a fake frog egg made out of a water bead engages more senses than simply reading about eggs on the page.

The bottom line is Amazing Amphibians is an exceptionally well organized and well written introduction to a fascinating group of animals. It is perfect for young naturalists and scientists. It is also a must-have resource for educators. Investigate a copy today!

Related Activities:

Not that a book loaded with oodles of hands-on activities needs any more, but let's celebrate Amazing Amphibians by making a tiny book about frogs, toads, and salamanders to share with younger children.

1. Download the Tiny Amphibian Book Template (PDF) - (click on image that pops up to load).

2. Print out on white paper.

3. Fold using the instructions in the video below. Make the cut along the line shown in the photo.

4. Talk about the illustrations in the tiny book and research any questions that arise. Decorate and add information to your book to make it your own.

Please let me know if you have any problems folding it.

Older children can make a handmade scientific notebook as suggested on page 3 of Amazing Amphibians.

For more frog and toad science activity suggestions, see our previous posts:

  1. Summer Sounds: Frogs and Toads
  2. Frog and Toad Science Activities, includes toad anatomy and building a toad house
  3. A Frog's Life book and activities, includes link to a citizen's science project.

Age Range: 7 - 9 years
Publisher: Chicago Review Press; First edition (January 7, 2020)
ISBN-10: 1641600721
ISBN-13: 978-1641600729

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. 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.

1

For STEM Friday we have a picture book that is much more than the usual, Book of Flight: 10 Record-Breaking Animals with Wings by Gabrielle Balkan and illustrated by Sam Brewster.

Why "more than the usual"?

At 10.5 x 12.8 inches, this book is larger than many picture books.

Inside, you will discover a challenging quiz format. The author sets up questions such as "Guess Who is the Fastest Flyer" and then gives plenty of details so the reader can figure it out. Included in the question spread is a blueprint-style illustration of the animal (like on the cover) with key features labelled. Turn the page and the answer is revealed in full color. To add a bit "more," the animal has a textured overlay on the paper that begs to be felt. Take a minute and rub your fingers over it. Then read the first person point of view story of that animal.

Although you would think that a book about flight would be about birds, the author has included insects, bats and even a fish. The last spread talks about human flight. Again, more than you expect.

Finally, the reading level is Lexile Measure: 680L, but the first book in this series (see below) got glowing reviews from the parents of preschoolers. Obviously, with a bit of help from an adult reader, these books appeal to more than the suggested age range.

Book of Flight is a perfect choice for young readers interested in animals, those in flying things, and also those trivia buffs who like facts about records. It is guaranteed to fly off the shelf!

See our related post about human versus insect anatomy.

Age Range: 5 - 8 years
Publisher: Phaidon Press (June 5, 2019)
ISBN-10: 0714878634
ISBN-13: 978-0714878638

Previous title in series:
Book of Bones: 10 Record-Breaking Animals by Gabrielle Balkan and illustrated by Sam Brewster

Wow, Book of Bones also exceeds expectations.

The format is similar to Book of Flight. Readers are asked which animal has the most bones, the biggest bone, etc. One difference is that instead of a blueprint, the illustration in the question spread is of animal's skeleton in white (and light gray) against a stark black background. What is even cooler is that in the full color answer spread that comes next, the texture overlaying the animal is in the shape of creature's skeleton. Basically, the reader can feel (and see) the skeleton as it would be positioned inside. Wow!

Other than that major difference, the rest of the highlights are similar in both books.

Book of Bones is a great introduction to comparative anatomy that is easy to swallow. Open up a copy today!

Age Range: 7 - 10 years
Publisher: Phaidon Press (September 18, 2017)
ISBN-10: 0714875120
ISBN-13: 978-0714875125

 

Disclosure: These books were 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.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.