As the holidays come closer, you usually cannot go wrong with gifting a child a book, as long as you pick the right one, which just might involve the bodily functions of animals.

What Do They Do With All That Poo?, written by Jane Kurtz and illustrated by Allison Black, is an informational picture book that is sure to entertain your young reader, as well as teach them at the same time. This book goes through many different zoo animals, including lions, giraffes and penguins, and explains what their poo, scat or dung looks like. Kurtz also explains why it looks the way it does, usually based on the animal's diet. So for example, did you know that a panda's poo is usually green because their diet consists solely of bamboo? Neither did I, and that's the kind of information my kids and I learned when we recently read this book before bedtime. In addition to learning all about the different kinds of poo, this book also addresses the question in the title, what do they do with all that poo? Kurtz does a great job of explaining the variety of ways zoos handle the abundance of poo they accumulate due to all of their animals, many of them very friendly to the environment. As a parent who doesn't find bodily functions as funny as my kids do, this book was a great compromise for the three of us. They enjoyed learning about how the different animals go to the bathroom, and I didn't feel awkward reading it to them. We checked this book out at the local library, but I'm sure you could find it wherever books are sold.

Another recent nonfiction read I had with my children was Plants Fight Back, written by Lisa J. Amstutz and illustrated by Rebecca Evans. This book, which was just released at the end of 2020, explains the different adaptations that plants make in order to survive. The author mentions plant adaptations that most of us are familiar with, like the cactus, but your reader will be surprised at the number of other plants that have a way to protect themselves, and the variety of ways they do so. There are even plants that can send signals to other living things to come and help protect them. And as an added bonus, although the book is wonderfully illustrated, the back of the book has actual photos of the plants mentioned in the book. This picture book was another hit with my kids before we went to bed one evening. This is one of those books that readers will remember facts from and will want to share with their friends.

My last recommendation is written by Amanda Gorman, the Youth Poet Laureate who shared her poetry with the world during the most recent presidential inauguration. She also just recently released her first picture book, illustrated by Loren Long, titled, Change Sings: a Children's Anthem. This beautiful book is a lyrical poem that can inspire even the youngest child that they have what it takes to make a change. The illustrations match the poem very well, so even if your reader gets stumped by the poetic language, they'll be able to get the same message from Loren Long's pictures.

Selecting the right book to give as a gift during the holiday season can be a difficult task, but hopefully these reviews have sparked some ideas.

Deana Metzke is a literacy coach at a Springfield elementary school and mom of two. For more children's book recommendations, follow her on Twitter @DMetzke or visit her blog at

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  • The Ritz

    @ Crowne Plaza Springfield

    Sat., March 23, 5:30-11 p.m.