What's Eating You? Parasites: The Inside Story
Written by Nicola Davies; illustrated by Neal Layton
Candlewick Press; $12.99
59 pp; ISBN:978-0-7636-3460-5
Review by Amy Brozio-Andrews
Firmly rooted in facts and good humor, Nicola Davies' What's Eating You? is sure to provide hours of fun and fascination to any young reader curious about the secret lives of parasites. From the rather ordinary, like invisible-to-the-naked eye eyelash mites, to the horrifically extraordinary, like a 60-foot tapeworm, What's Eating You? is an excellent primer on this often unseen world of tiny animals who make their home either on, or inside, other living things.
Zoologist Davies outlines for young readers the amazing adaptive skills of these organisms, tailored to how they live on or in animals and humans, how they reproduce, and how they spread from one host to another, ensuring survival of the species. For example, rabbit fleas are so specialized, they can only survive on rabbits; when female rabbits give birth, the fleas do too, allowing their babies to migrate to the baby rabbits, ensuring the repetition of the rabbit flea life cycle. Other parasites make your feet stink a certain way, attracting mosquitoes as their means of hitching a ride to another host, while some, like those mites who live in peoples' eyelashes, are just plain harmless. Not one to leave her readers with only the bad news though, Davies also provides information on how animals and people can resist parasites, through grooming, medication, or devices like water filters. Concluding on a positive note, there are even parasites that beneficial to their hosts, fighting disease in humans or standing in for chemical pesticides for crops.
Be prepared to be grossed out -- Davies spares no details in relating how and where the pinworm lays its eggs, or how the guinea worm makes a painful hole in a person's leg that can only be relieved by walking into cold water where the guinea worm can release its offspring. Learn how a certain parasite makes bees dig their own graves, or grasshoppers jump into water. Davies' writing is funny and engaging; she reveals information in bite-sized pieces, perfect for young readers interested in freaking out parents, younger siblings, babysitters, grandmothers, and neighbors. Firmly rooted in facts, What's Eating You? provides readers with a stepping stone into entymology, complete with a glossary and index for quick reference.
Neal Layton's comic, accurate illustrations support Davies' text while keeping the tone of the book light. According to the book's jacket copy, his favorite page is the two-page spread that illustrates the passage on tapeworms, The Two-Host Tapeworm Game (seriously, you really can play this game, if you're so inclined). Layton's ink and digitally colored depictions of happy parasites are even kinda charming.
With flair and enthusiasm, Nicola Davies and Neal Layton introduce a new and exciting world to young readers in this high-interest book that's sure to grab kids' attention from the very first page.
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