Ok, I’ll admit it. When I hear about children having lice (there are over 3000 kinds, each preferring a specific kind of host) I start to feel things crawling all over me. Parasites are a part of our world and What’s Eating You? is a playful look at the tiny creatures that call living creatures home. Scientists think there are more kinds of parasites (living and feeding on their host) than any other sort of animal and more than 430 different kinds live in or on a human. Now are you starting to itch?
In the spirit of Ms. Frizzle and the Magic Schoolbus, What’s Eating You? packs lots of information onto its pages in a fun and often interactive way. Illustrator Neal Layton, for example, has created a two-page spread (The Two-Host Tapeworm Game) that the reader can actually play with dice and a couple of counters. Nicola Davies does a great job of making sure we understand how amazing parasites really are, and does her best to convince us that they have value and are not just something we want to avoid. “A parasite is like a mouse trying to hitch a ride on a jumbo jet,” she writes and “a flea’s ability to jump (over 100x it’s body length) is like a human jumping over the Eiffel Tower”. That really is quite amazing.
Davies (a trained zoologist) also gives plenty of insight into how animals (including humans) can fight back. Grooming is essential, our immune system is constantly at war and regular pooping (yes, she uses the word “pooping”) rids our bodies of unwelcome intruders. The index and glossary at the back of the book make it easy to find facts about specific creatures or parasites. What’s Eating You? is the type of book to capture the imagination of elementary readers (especially boys) and is a must for any library or school.
— Heidi Grosch
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