May 11 – National Eat What You Want Day


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.


Image copyright Florence Weiser, 2023, text copyright Sara Levine, 2023. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

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.”


Image copyright Florence Weiser, 2023, text copyright Sara Levine, 2023. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

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.


Image copyright Florence Weiser, 2023, text copyright Sara Levine, 2023. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

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.


Image copyright Florence Weiser, 2023, text copyright Sara Levine, 2023. Courtesy of Millbrook Press.

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.


You can find Poop for Breakfast: Why Some Animals Eat It at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from


Picture Book Review






March 24 – It’s Women’s History Month


About the Holiday

From its beginning as a single-day observance in 1911 in Sonoma, California, the celebration of women’s achievements and contributions throughout history grew to a week-long event in 1980 and finally to encompass the entire month of March in 1987. During this month we remember the trail-blazing women of yesteryear who used their creativity, intelligence, and perseverance to promote rights for women while contributing their own innovations to science, art, social reform, medicine, and other disciplines as well as today’s pioneers who carry on their legacy and make our world a better place. Today, we feature a book about a woman who revolutionized virology and medical research, connecting the past and the present. To learn more about the holiday, visit the National Women’s History Museum website and check out their resource toolkit.

June Almeida, Virus Detective! The Woman Who Discovered the First Human Coronavirus

Written by Suzanne Slade | Illustrated by Elisa Paganelli

Growing up in Glasgow, Scotland, June Almeida loved school. After class she couldn’t wait to share what she’d learned—especially science subjects—with her mother, father, and little brother, Henry. When June was ten, however, her life changed when Henry became sick and passed away. Throughout elementary school and into high school, June loved studying science, especially biology in which she learned about the cells in the body and their functions. “June was so enthusiastic about science, she won the top science prize at school.”


Image copyright Elisa Paganelli, 2021, text copyright Suzanne Slade, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

But science wasn’t the only thing June loved. She had lots of friends, was an avid reader, and became an excellent photographer. Whenever she was out with her camera, “she noticed small details, and her keen eye helped her create stunning photos.” June dreamed of attending college, but the jobs her father and mother held did not pay enough, and when June was sixteen, she dropped out of school to get a job to help pay the bills. June wanted to make a difference, “so she applied to work at the nearby hospital” and was hired as a lab worker. Here she learned how to examine cells with a microscope. “Her findings helped doctors treat patients.”

When June was twenty-two, she and her family moved to London. She got a job in a hospital lab and also met and married an artist named Henry. June and Henry moved to Canada, where she quickly found a job at a “new research lab in Toronto.” In this lab, June worked with an electron microscope that could magnify things 25,000 times and produced detailed pictures of the samples being studied. These photos “were helpful. But it was hard to tell which tiny blobs were viruses and which were cells.” June thought she could improve on the photos.


Image copyright Elisa Paganelli, 2021, text copyright Suzanne Slade, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

June knew that in the body antibodies would surround viruses as they worked to fight it. June wondered if by introducing antibodies to her samples, scientists would be able to determine the virus from the cells. June’s idea worked. The scientists were astonished. Because of June’s innovation, they now had clear pictures that would help them study and combat viruses.

After June took time away from work to have a baby in 1960, she returned to her research and often lectured about her work. She was recruited to work at a hospital lab in London, so she and her family moved once again. At the time, a researcher named David Tyrrell had been trying to identify a virus that had affected a young boy. Could it be a new virus? He was hoping that June could help.


Image copyright Elisa Paganelli, 2021, text copyright Suzanne Slade, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When June received the sample, she knew that “since it was an unknown virus, there were no antibodies to help find it.” But she was an expert at using another method that might work. Carefully, June implemented the intricate steps. Then she put the sample under the microscope and scanned the picture. “June was stunned.” Each virus blob was encircled by tiny dots “like a crown. ” She had seen this twice before when looking at viruses from sick animals. She had written a paper on it, but it had been rejected by other researchers because they thought her pictures were just blurry and not those of a new virus.

June presented her findings to doctors who agreed with her discovery. They decided to name the new virus coronavirus, after the Latin word for crown, corona. June and David then published a paper telling other doctors and researchers about the new virus. Following this discovery, June continued to study viruses, such as hepatitis B and HIV. Her pictures of these viruses helped researchers develop medications that could “block them from making people sick.” Even after she retired, June never lost her love of learning, teaching herself to play the flute, about antiques, and how to use a digital camera to continue creating incredible photos.

Backmatter includes more about June Almeida and her life’s work, an illustrated timeline of her life, and a selected bibliography.


Image copyright Elisa Paganelli, 2021, text copyright Suzanne Slade, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Suzanne Slade’s compelling biography of June Almeida gives context for and insight into the research and discovery of the coronavirus and informs present-day events and breakthroughs. Slade’s fluid storytelling clearly reveals Almeida’s intelligence and passion for science as well as her determination to use her skills to the betterment of society. Kids will be astounded that June was able to begin her career at the age of sixteen, and that her beloved hobby of photography became a career that changed medical research. Slade’s sprinkling of personal details about Almeida’s life creates a well-rounded understanding of this influential woman.

Through Elisa Paganelli’s realistic and detailed illustrations, children have the opportunity to see a researcher at work in world-class laboratories. Readers will be especially impressed by images of the electron microscope and how Almeida improved the photographs these powerful machines produced. Children familiar with the shape of the coronavirus will be interested in seeing the faithfully reproduced photographs and how the virus got its name. Kids will also enjoy seeing illustrations of Almeida’s family life, including her daughter Joyce, who is herself a doctor.

An inspirational and fascinating biography of a woman with a very innovative mind, June Almeida, Virus Detective! will thrill children interested in science, medicine, and the arts. The book would be an impactful addition to STEM and STEAM lessons. It is highly recommended for home libraries and is a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 6 – 9 

Sleeping Bear Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534111325

Discover more about Suzanne Slade and her books on her website.

To learn more about Elisa Paganelli, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Women’s History Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-microscope-coloring-page          celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-microscope-wordsearch-puzzle

Take a Closer Look Coloring Page and Word Search 

You can examine the parts of a microscope with this printable word search puzzle and coloring page.

Take a Closer Look Word Search Puzzle | Take a Closer Look Word Search Solution | Coloring Page


You can find June Almeida, Virus Detective! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review