Haiku, Ew!: Celebrating the Disgusting Side of Nature

Lerner/Millbrook. Apr. 2024. 32p. Tr $20.99. ISBN 9781728492506.
Gr 4-6–While haikus and ickiness may not seem like the most obvious pairing, this book uses revolting facts to provide a surprisingly engaging dose of science. Brunelle cleverly uses the spareness of the haiku form to showcase nature facts that range from the scatological to the morbid to the just plain alien. Each haiku is paired with a longer description written in a conversational style that deftly introduces some pretty sophisticated scientific terms and ideas. Patton’s collage-like illustrations also don’t shy away from grossness: splashes of bodily fluids and gaseous emissions, carefully labeled, abound. Some of the facts are relatively tame, but others are not for the faint of heart (or stomach). Although the book is fairly short and easy to read, resources at the end extend learning. A brief overview of the history of the haiku form is provided, as well as a light acknowledgment of the seeming incongruity of the “haiku, ew” subject matter versus more classical themes. Prompts and a bibliography are also included to encourage reader engagement and further research. There is no nuance in these pages: readers will either be delighted by the grossness or not. For some budding naturalists, this book may spark a particular kind of fascination with the less splendorous, but equally interesting, parts of the natural world. Others will be too grossed out to enjoy it. It’s worth cracking open to figure out which one you are.
VERDICT For readers who don’t get queasy easily and are interested in how weird nature can get.

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