Review of ‘Poo, Spew and other Gross Things Animals do!’
Dr Sam Lloyd, Children’s Books Daily chief science and nature book reviewer, is on a roll! Another fabulous review on gross, fun and stinky things! Let’s face it – we all love a good poo story or joke and this time it’s the animals we get hear about.
Thank you to Dr Sam, who not only provides amazing science and nature book reviews, but also gorgeous baked goods and fresh eggs. She’s the ultimate neighbour! I urge you to follow her on Facebook and Instagram and help your kids (and yourselves) connect with science and understand nature that little bit more. Dr Sam’s aim is to grow little minds into big thinkers – a worthy pursuit!
Reviewer: Dr Sam Lloyd, with help from Toby and Georgia Mutzig (ages 11 and 8), Emily and Connor Campbell (ages 14 and 11) and Ethan, Caleb and Leila Wetzig (ages 11, 9 and 6).
Title: Poo, spew and other gross things animals do
Authors: Nic Gill and Romane Cristescu
Illustrator: Rachel Tribout
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing, 2022
Key themes: Animal biology, animal identification, cycles in ecosystems, careers in science.
‘Poo, Spew and other gross things animals do!’
by Nic Gill and Romane Cristescu
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Disgusting but FUN!
I frequently begin a book review by commenting on how stunning or beautiful a book is. This is not that sort of book. In fact, it is fair to say this book is the opposite of beautiful, it could be considered, by some, to be gross and disgusting. However, I think it is brilliant, funny and fascinating (it is also my new favourite book title). The book I speak of is “Poo, Spew and other gross things animals do!” by Nic Gill, Romane Cristescu and Rachel Tribout.
As stated in the title, this book is all about poo, spew and all the gross things animals do. However, this information is not merely put together for the comic value for children (although believe me, this is not lost of the children who helped me review this book). It is a captivating guide to better understanding animal biology and behaviour, with some hilarious and disgusting examples. Some of the animals in the book we see in the Australian bush, other creatures we may never see, but we can learn something intriguing (and often impressively gross) long the way.
Nic and Romane have clearly gone to a huge amount of effort to gather together the fascinating and insightful information in this book. The artwork by Rachel Tribout is fun and engaging and breaks up the text nicely with bright illustrations. The book is easy to follow, never feeling text-heavy or overwhelming, but rather drawing you in to different chapters and examples. The book is 92 pages and broken into eight chapters, with a glossary and index for easy reference. Chapters include “Animal Grossness”, an introduction to the key theme of the book; “Grossness as Self-defence”, which as the name implies, shares stories and information about the clever and crazy gross things animals do to protect themselves; and my personal favourite, “Poo Detectives”, which looks at how animal poo can help us identify and learn more about animals. The book is recommended for ages 9 – 12, but unless you are well across your animal poo and spew, I would imagine most children and adults alike will learn something interesting and disgusting from this book.
Knowledge level up
In an effort to share the joy of animal poo, I invited some friends to help me review this book. I asked seven children between the ages of 6 and 13 to tell me their favourite gross and/or funny fact from the book, this is what they came up with:
- Hagfish slither into the rotting body of other fish and eat them from the inside out. They often eat so fast “the rotting flesh come straight out of their butts undigested!”.
- Demodex mites (related to ticks) make their home in our facial pores where they live off face oil and grow very fat. They do not have an anus, which means they cannot poo. However, this means when they die the “body bursts or collapses, releasing a lifetime of poo” into our facial pores.
- Some birds can regurgitate partially digested food to impress another bird they are trying to mate with (the authors wisely suggest you do not try this on someone you like);
- Carpenter ants throw up into each other’s mouths to share food between colony member and to feed larvae;
- The greater short-horned lizard can shoot blood out of their eye in self-defence!
Best of all, when we went on a bushwalk with the kids and we came across an animal poo, the kids asked what animal it was from. It was from an echidna and we explained why it sparkles (insect shell) and what to look for. Of course, we also had to tolerate poo and spew jokes for the two hours of the walk, but it was worth it (I think).
A Note on Animal Poo, or Scats:
For those of you still wondering why we would, or should care about animal poo (also known as scats), in terms of field ecology, scats are a valuable source of information on what animals may be found in a particular area. As with using animal tracks, animal poo and other traces, can tell us a good deal about what animals use an environment, without having to see or capture them.
In Australia, all self-respecting terrestrial/mammal field ecologists own a copy of “Tracks, Scats and other Traces: A Field Guide to Australian Mammals” by Barbara Trigg. First published in 1996, by Oxford University Press, this field guide was essential to ecological, survey and research-based field work. This book helped you to understand what to look for and how to identify the markings, scats and other signs as mammal species. Of course, many other animal groups leave signs and traces for us use to identify them, for example, glossy black cockatoos can be identified by a litter of chewed seed cones beneath the she-oak (Allocasuarina) trees they feed in. This information is vital, especially for threatened or cryptic species that can be difficult to see and otherwise identify.
For more information on wasps, see the following links:
- Award-winning children’s science podcast, Brains On! have an episode dedicated to “weird animal” poo (of course they do), entitled Poop Party: Answers to your poop questions. You can find it here.
- The Conversation’s Curious Kids series has an article on animal scats entitled: “What can you learn from studying an animal’s scat”. You can find it here.
- The Australian Museum also has many pages dedicated to animal scats, including the wombat.
Dr Samantha Lloyd
Dr Samantha Lloyd is an ecologist and environmental manager with a passion for the Australian bush, children’s literature, dance, music and baking. Sam firmly believes in the value of engaging environmental and science-based children’s literature to nurture children’s insatiable curiosity and their need to understand why things are the way they are. Sam is keenly focused on growing little minds into big thinkers.
Sam graduated from the University of Wollongong with a Bachelor of Science (Biology) and a PhD (pollination ecology) in 2006 and has worked as an environmental manager and an entomologist. Sam’s ability to interpret and critically evaluate science-based publications for children has led her to be the chief children’s science reviewer for award winning website Children’s Books Daily and for the Ecological Society of Australia.
Sam’s favourite authors and illustrators include Arthur Rackham, Roald Dahl, May Gibbs, C.S Lewis, Brian Froud and Mem Fox. Sam lives in beautiful Brisbane with her husband, two young children, one dog and five chooks.