About the Holiday
Do you feel like you’ve been on a diet forever? Have you been denying yourself a favorite treat because maybe it’s not the best thing you can eat? Or do you find yourself always making meals to suit everyone else’s taste when what you really want is just a grilled cheese sandwich? If so, today’s holiday gives you carte blanche to enjoy the foods you want without feeling guilty. It also seems like a fitting day to learn about the rather unusual (at least to us) diet of many creatures in the animal kingdom—and that’s where today’s book come in!
Poop for Breakfast: Why Some Animals Eat It
Written by Sara Levine | Illustrated by Florence Weiser
So, you wake up starving for a delicious meal. You’ve been dreaming of pancakes, maybe, or a plate of eggs and bacon. But when you get to the table, there’s a bowl of poop waiting for you?! Come on! While you might sulk (and probably hold your nose), there are plenty of creatures who’d be thinking “Bring it on!” Who are these critters? They’re animals that practice coprophagy, and they do it “for a number of surprisingly good reasons,” Sara Levine reveals.
For some animals eating poop is just part of being a Number 1 (or maybe Number 2 is better in this case) parent. Butterflies, cats, and dogs as well as robins and other birds all have specific reasons for dining on doo-doo, from making eggs strong to protecting their babies from predators to keeping “a nest clean and tidy.” Birds have a particularly fascinating way to do this. Since baby birds eat a lot, they poop a lot. Keeping up with that level of cleaning could be daunting. Amazingly, though, these “chicks’ poop and pee come out inside a bag made of mucus. It’s called a fecal sac. Bird parents grasp it with their beaks and carry it away like a disposable diaper. And sometimes the parents eat it. How come? The poop of a newly hatched chick is full of undigested nutrients.”
While these animals eat poop for external or aesthetic reasons, others engage in coprophagy to keep their digestive system working well. Still others, because of the length or shape of their digestive tract, require that food travels through their body twice to extract all of the nutrients. If you have a rabbit, hamster, guinea pig, or other small rodent as a pet, you know that their poop looks like little round balls or small pellets. As Levine tells readers, “this is the poop that has been through their digestive tract a second time. The first poop comes out soft, sticky, and full of nutrients. It’s called a cecotrope (SEE-ca-trope),” and these animals “gobble it up at night when it comes out. That’s why you don’t see it” in the cage.
Since there are so many creatures who do eat poop, why don’t humans? Levine has included a whole list of reasons (and, yes, the frowny- crinkled-nose-face you’re making right now is one of them) for why we don’t—and don’t need to. She’s also provided back matter that includes “The Scoop on Poop”—an explanation of what poop and pee are, how they’re created in the body, and how they’re eliminated through the anus and the urethra as well as a paragraph about creatures that have a single cloaca instead of two openings. Kids will also have fun becoming “poop detectives” with the help of Levine’s and illustrator Florence Weiser’s guide to the sizes and shapes of poop from common pets and wildlife and playing a silly synonym game.
Sara Levine is exceptional at presenting fascinating nature science topics in humorous and accessible ways for young audiences, and her latest book is no exception, Leaning into the “Ewww!” factor, Levine dishes up short, take-away reasons certain animals, birds, and insects practice coprophagy followed up with longer passages that explain the science and/or behavior behind them in easy-to-understand language sprinkled with humor that will keep readers riveted to this already high-interest subject.
Florence Weiser’s colorful illustrations perfectly bridge the humorous and the scientific nature of Levine’s text. Readers’ skeptical view of this “gross” habit is amusingly juxtaposed with creatures’ excited anticipation of a delicious meal through the characters’ facial expressions while the anatomical reasons for or against coprophagy are clearly depicted in images of human and various animals’ digestive systems.
Anatomy and nature science education at its best, Poop for Breakfast: Why Some Animals Eat It will keep kids enthralled as each page turn brings on a new round of giggles and avid learning. The book would enhance any home STEM collection and is a must for classroom, school, and public library bookshelves.
Ages 5 – 10
Millbrook Press, 2023 | ISBN 978-1728457963
About the Author
Sara Levine is an author, educator, and veterinarian. Her science books for children include the Animal by Animal series, Germs Up Close, and A Peek at Beaks: Tools Birds Use. Her books have received a number of awards including AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize, Utah Beehive Book Award, Cook Prize finalist, Monarch Award master list, and Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year.
About the Illustrator
Florence Weiser is a French illustrator currently based in beautiful, rainy Belgium. While growing up in Luxembourg, she always knew she wanted to draw and draw. She lives and works surrounded by nature, from which she gathers most of her inspiration.
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