Animal books don’t beat around the bush

Bonnie Belec
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Be prepared for some interesting conversations

Our newest series of children’s books have left me scrambling to answer questions I wasn’t really ready for ... at least not for a couple of more years.

Do You Know Leeches?
Written by Alain M. Bergeron,
Michel Quintin, Sampar
Published by Fitzhenry & Whiteside
64 pages (total); $9.95 each

So, if you decide to pick them up, be prepared to be bombarded by your young ones with questions about the different mating techniques, among other things, of certain animals.

For example, and I kid you not, I didn’t know that a male porcupine tries to impress a mate by urinating on them until I read this series.

“Why did he pee on her mom?” Liam asked.

“It’s kind of their way of saying they like someone,” I said.

“That is just disgusting,” said Lindsay.

The series, “Do You Know,” written by Alain M. Bergeron, Michel Quintin and Sampar, with illustrations by Sampar, is made up of a group of eight books offering tidbits of scientific information about chameleons, crocodiles, crows, porcupines, rats, spiders, toads and leeches. We only have the four — porcupines, rats, leeches and crows.

The small, soft-covered books are bright and the cartoon-characters are likable despite some of their gross dietary habits and reproductive practices.

The illustrations are a little graphic, especially in the book about leeches. But the back and forth between the animals and some human characters is really funny and can be used as a catalyst to engage your children into a more in-depth conversation about biology and animal nature.

The team uses word balloons to carry on the dialogue with a brief factual statement written underneath the pictures.

However, be ready for the tough questions and some of the gross facts.

In “Do You Know Porcupines,” two adult rodents go visit a counsellor and she tells the couple they need to get closer in their relationship.

The female says, “That’s precisely the problem, Doc …”

The basic fact says, “because porcupine quills are so sharp, porcupines must be very careful while mating,” which instigated a conversation about how animals get together to reproduce or breed little ones.

The next couple of pages actually go into how a North American porcupine advances a female to find out if she is ready to mate. While standing on his hind legs and growling, he sprays her with urine. The object of his affection is standing there in an orange bonnet and purple dress holding an umbrella.

“I think I made myself clear,” she says.

The books can be a little awkward, even with the comic relief, due to the delicate subject matter, so I wouldn’t recommend introducing them to younger children.

“Do You Know Rats” has similar facts about the species’ reproduction habits.

Sampar draws a group of tough-looking rats in a stand-off when a female is in heat.

“My dads are stronger than your dads,” says a rat in reference to the fact female rats can mate with six different males.

Lindsay and Liam liked all four books, but they fancied the leeches — probably because the blood-sucking hermaphrodites are the grossest.

 They were most amazed by the fact leeches can survive for two years without food and they can be used for certain medical procedures.

So, the books are interesting and easy to read. For terms that may not be commonplace, the team has included a glossary at the back.

We’re going to see if we can get our hands on the others.

On a different topic, I want to say “Bonne fête!” to my co-reviewers who turned nine this week.

Happy reading.


Bonnie Belec is a Telegram senior reporter and the mother of nine-year-old twins Lindsay and Liam. She can be reached at

Organizations: North American

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