________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 13 . . . . November 27, 2015


Friend or Foe: The Whole Truth About Animals That People Love to Hate.

Etta Kaner. Illustrated by David Anderson.
Toronto, ON: Owlkids, 2015.
48 pp., hardcover, $17.95.
ISBN 978-1-77147-064-3.

Subject Headings:
Animal diversity-Juvenile literature.
Animal ecology-Juvenile literature.
Animal behavior-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-7 / Ages 8-12.

Review by Gillian Richardson.

***½ /4



Watch Where You're Stepping!
Enter any bat cave and you'll step in globs of guano. Guano is bat poop, which piles up on the floor of a cave or any other place where bats roost. Guano in a crowded cave could be as high as a seven-story building! In warmer parts of the world, guano contains histoplasmosis, a fungus disease that can make people very sick.

But, on the other hand...

Thank You, Bats
Bats that eat fruit or drink nectar use their sight and keen sense of smell to find food. Thanks to these bats, tropical rain forests are able to regenerate. How? Seeds dropped by fruit-eating bats as they eat or poop grow into new plants. And the pollen powder that nectar-drinking bats carry on their fur from one flower to another forms seeds so new fruit grows. The next time you eat a mango or date or fig, think of the bats that had a hand...er, seed, in growing it.

The subtitle of this book, The Whole Truth about Animals That People Love to Hate, gives the best sense of what's inside. The first reaction of many to creatures, like rats, cockroaches, leeches and spiders, is fear and loathing, leading to screams, or comments like, "I hate spiders..." The book offers a rationale for this negative response, e.g. how spiders sneak up on their prey, how females eat males, how scary their appearance can be, how painful the bite of some might feel, the spider's eating habit of sucking a victim dry and the gross feeling of a web sticking to your skin. On the subsequent page, though, the virtues of spiders are extolled: how strong, lightweight and reflective their webs are and what human uses the silk inspires, and how their diet of insects we consider pests can be helpful to us.

internal art      This pattern is repeated for 10 animals that often elicit negative first reactions, but that actually have habits helpful to the environment as well as to people. Each section ends with the question: "So, what do YOU think? Is a wolf friend or foe?" A final page attempts to shift the reader's perception beyond the human view (an important distinction, lest we only observe nature as useful or not to us) and put it squarely on seeing the animals as simply part of the natural world, doing what comes naturally.

      The bold, eye-catching presentation and cartoon-style illustrations will appeal to young readers. Bright banner headlines declare what's not to like about the critter that appears on the page with examples of its nastiness. Flip the page to see a poster-style promotion of its positive features. In easy-to-read language, the amusing writing style gets the points across in chunks of text with creative titles.

      Friend or Foe will be fun to read on one's own or to share with a friend. The sharing activity will no doubt encourage discussion and debate. These accounts are good examples of valid pro/con arguments to get kids thinking critically, learning how to defend their own point of view, and to have empathy for the opinions of others.

Highly Recommended.

Gillian Richardson is a freelance writer living in BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

Next Review | Table of Contents for This Issue - November 27, 2015.

CM Home
| Back Issues | Search | CM Archive | Profiles Archive