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Saturday, March 12, 2011

50 Poisonous Questions, written by Tanya Lloyd Kyi and illustrated by Ross Kinnaird. Annick Press, 2011. $12.95 ages 10 and up

"The good news is that in the
entire world, there is not a
single venomous creature
intentionally hunting humans.
Come step into the world of
lethal leaves and murderous
minerals, where you will discover
intriguing facts, killer cartoons, and
poisonous puzzles. But be warned!"


Tanya Lloyd Kyi offers up an invitation not likely to deter any reader interested in knowing about the gross and disgusting poisons in our world:

"Should you choose to continue reading, slip on a lab coat. Invest in good protective eyewear. And step into the world of ancient alchemists and modern scientists, those who delve into the mysteries of Earth's most murderous chemicals. You have been warned."

Really???? What kid wouldn't want to find out more after a warning like that?

She starts with spikes and fangs and offers a short introduction before moving on to a series of questions and answers, and assurances such as this:

"Even in Australia, with more than 60 poisonous species of snakes, only a few people die each year from snake bites. People are more likely to be killed by lightning."

Well, that makes me feel better.

I love the humor that she uses in the telling, and the ways she connects so much of her research to the reader. She tells of Japanese diners who see eating puffer fish as a 'dinner table badge of courage' because of the danger...and 50 of them die each year. You won't have to worry about me trying fugu. Before moving on to the next section, she poses a puzzle, providing clues that have to do with what has been learned and giving the answer (just to prove the reader was right in detecting the problem). 

Other chapters concern bugs, leaves, minerals, gases, villains, spills and disasters. Each is set up in the same style and is filled with intriguing and often surprising facts. As the book ends, the author lets her readers know that poisons have been, and can still be, used for good. It depends in whose hands they rest. And she provides a very pertinent and timely observation:

"In the 1950s, the use of DDT almost eradicated bedbugs in industrialized nations. Today, the bugs are back! Outbreaks have plagued New York City retail stores, Canadian universities, New Zealand hotels, and homes around the world." Isn't that the truth??

I cannot finish without mentioning the very apt and oh, so funny illustrations done by Ross Kinnaird. Filled with venom themselves and so much humor, they add another dimension to this most engaging nonfiction book. Sure to strike a chord with many intermediate and middle years readers, this would be a welcome addition to personal and classroom libraries.

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