Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Friday, December 6, 2019

Abhorrent Animals Endure

When you are out and about in the wild and come upon something out of the ordinary with a high ick factor, you usually tend to give it a wide berth.  You avoid it not only because of its physical appearance but these characteristics are likely to be a danger signal.  This is one of those win-win situations.  Both you and the critter are spared any adverse results.

If you know why this particular creature looks as they do, there's a chance you will find them fascinating.  Gross As A Snot Otter: Discovering the World's Most Disgusting Animals (The World Of Weird Animals) (Alfred A. Knopf, October 29, 2019) written by Jess Keating with illustrations by David DeGrand is the fourth title in this series penned and pictured by this talented team.  It explores seventeen animals with less than appealing exterior features.

Disgusting. Vile.
Repugnant. GROSS.
Gross animals are everywhere, but there's more
to these creatures than just "Eww!" and "Yuck!"

Turn the page, but be
warned, this book is not
for the squeamish . . .

As we meet the title animal, we realize their outer body is coated in mucus.  This mucus protects them on multiple levels.  The weird fact is they use their lungs to control how they float, and their skin is the source of the majority of their oxygen.

Try not to be shocked by the knowledge that zombie worms love to eat whale bones AND the males live inside the female bodies.  If you live in the area where a dumpy tree frog resides you might be checking the rim of your toilet bowl.  They enjoy hanging out there.  For all you giraffe fans, try not being appalled by the behavior of male giraffes when testing the readiness of a female to mate.  (Although on a purely scientific level, it's pure genius.)

It's guaranteed you'll never look at those cute little forest friends the same way again after reading about the Siberian chipmunk.  If you think your canine companion rolls in disgusting stuff, these critters take it to a whole new level.  Did you know hagfish slime is brimming with protein?  Do you know what scientists are thinking of doing with that slime?  

The next time or perhaps the first time you lounge on the sandy beach along the Caribbean, remember it might be composed of parrotfish poop.  Wow! The wingspan of the marabou stork is twelve feet.  Their bald heads are perfect for circumventing a mess as they dive into a carrion snack.

You won't believe where the babies of a Surinam toad reside until they are tiny toadlets.  Let's just say it's "handy" for them.  The next time someone farts I believe they will think of herring known to swim in groups but also to communicate with flatulence.  Just in case the previous details of truth here are not gross enough, think about the final animal showcased.  The sea cucumber can expel its guts; out the front or out the back of its body.  It's mind-boggling to learn they can regrow what they've lost.  Yes, these beings are repulsive, but they are a part of an ecological balance and we are essential to their existence.  We are a team and winning equals life for all.

When it comes to searching for the most captivating facts about animals and writing a narrative to expose that information for readers, Jess Keating is a master.  Jess Keating combines truth, wit and literary techniques like alliteration.  Take for example, the first sentence in her first entry.  

If you're disgusting and you know it, hide under a rock!

In this statement a musical lyric is fractured to share knowledge.  Word play is used to introduce extra information in the second paragraph.  Titles like 

Miraculous Maggots?, Pee Break!, Super Slime or Bubbles or Boogers?

are certain to capture readers' attention.  Here are two partial passages for the marabou stork.

MARABOU STORK legs are gray-brown, so why do they typically look white?  The white color is due to what scientists call whitewash, which is a fancy way of saying that this stork poops on its own legs!

The Bad and the Beautiful
Many birds have beautifully colored feathers on their heads, but marabou storks have no room for such decor.  This bird's bald head isn't just striking, it's downright practical.

Jess Keating continues to educate us by providing a column on the right of each entry which includes the animal's name, species name, size, diet, habitat, and predators and threats.  Any time a word is shown which readers might not have previously seen or is important to the text, it is made bold.

When readers look at the open and matching dust jacket and book case, they are well aware, even if this is the first book in this series they are reading, this is an extraordinary book.  This is a book focused on the topic presenting a combination of real photographs and comedic cartoons drawn by David DeGrand.  To the left, on the back, under these words:

It's not easy being GROSS.
You have to work pretty hard to be this revolting.

three animals are showcased.  One is covered in goo, the other is vomiting and the third one is slobbering as it chews thorny acacia leaves.

On the left side of each animal's discussion is a photograph outlined loosely with a wavy frame.  Opposite this, on the right are the three areas of text.  Accompanying the text is a humorous drawing by David DeGrand which draws our attention to a specific detail.  Male zombie worms are shown ready to move inside a female in a homey setting with a doorway, a picture on the wall and windows.  A dumpy tree frog, that mainly resides in Australia, is portrayed climbing from a toilet bowl and exclaiming Crikey!  

One of my favorite pictures highlights the parrotfish.  It is pooping out what will be white sand on a Caribbean beach.  In its front fins it holds a newspaper titled The Fishington Post.  The expression on its face is a blend of concern and contentment.

No one but Jess Keating and David DeGrand could make repulsive animals as engaging as this team does in the fourth book in the series, Gross As A Snot Otter: Discovering the World's Most Disgusting Animals (The World of Weird Animals).  This book, like the previous titles, can be read in a single sitting in entertaining gulps or as an animal a day.  At the close of the book Jess Keating discusses more about what the term disgusting means and how it is interpreted.  This is followed by 
Say What?!  A Glossary of Useful Words.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.  With the holiday season approaching this would make for a wonderful present, as would the other books in the series.

To learn more about Jess Keating and David DeGrand and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Jess's website is a goldmine of resources.  Jess Keating has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  David DeGrand has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  The cover reveal for this book is found at Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher's site, Watch. Connect. Read.  It's a super post about cover design and the decisions made by all participants.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  For links about the previous three titles and a book trailer premiere at this blog, follow this link.

To view the titles selected this week by other participant in the 2019 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge, visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator, Alyson Beecher.

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