Not-So-Cuddly Kids' Book Creatures
Who doesn't love a good kid's book? Ask any of us here at the store and we're more than happy to share the ones we love, like Julián is a Mermaid or No More Poems! or Bunheads. But it was discussing one of our most recent favorites, If You Come to Earth that got me musing this week.
If You Come to Earth is a delightful picture book, in which a young boy writes a letter to an imagined alien, explaining things the alien would need to know if it visited Earth. The boy describes the planet and the people, and even gives a few warnings on things to avoid, including being "spat on by a slow loris."
Well, as it turns out, slow lorises (i.e. any of the small, nocturnal mammals belonging to the scientific genus Nycticebus) are the only primates recognized as being venomous! Lorises secrete a special chemical from a gland near their armpits that, when mixed with their saliva, becomes a rather potent toxin. Lorises use this toxin both offensively, to attack other creatures that may threaten them, or as defense, coating their fur with the venom using a specially adapted "toothcomb" which makes them very unpalatable to predators and parasites. Fascinating! Lorises are adorable, but deadly, and that got me thinking about other cute and cuddly animals featured in kid's books that you might not actually want to encounter in real life. Here's what I found!
This book is an utter delight. An odd couple story about neat and fastidious Badger who has to adjust to the sudden (and chaotic) appearance of his new roommate Skunk. While there are initially clashes between the two (Badger tries to have Skunk evicted at one point) the two ultimately learn to get along and live in harmony. Now, I think we can all understand why someone might not want to live with a skunk, right? But compared to the real thing, Badger's response to the invasion of his home was quite tame. Real badgers, when cornered, are fierce fighters, and their natural diet includes hedgehogs and rabbits. Some species of badger even eat porcupines and venomous snakes!
See Also: Elmore and Pinky
I almost couldn't believe this book the first time I read it. A human mother and daughter are out hunting hunting blueberries, and a mother bear and her cub are in the same place doing the same thing. Each child gets wanders away from their mother and the titular Sal comes across mama bear, searching for her cub. Normally this would be a recipe for tragedy, but this is a kid's book so of course everyone escapes unscathed. But it could have very easily gone another way in real life as getting between a mother bear and her cub is considered one of the most dangerous things a person can do in the wilderness.
Honestly, I'm not sure which is more dangerous with this one; the actual shark itself or the earworm this book will cause (doo doo doo doo doo doo). While most of the bad press concerning great white sharks is due to a certain novel-turned-blockbuster-movie that I won't name here, the fear is at least a little founded in reality. There are an average of 80 unprovoked shark attacks on humans every year.
This book is so adorable! It's about a friendly crocodile named Lyle who lives with a human family and dances! In real life though, crocodiles have the strongest bite of any animal, the most acidic stomach of any animal (powerful enough to disolve bones!), and have been observed in the wild attacking and killing sharks. There is also limited evidence that some crocodiles can live up to 100 years!
Tigers are probably one of the world's favorite animals. After all, who doesn't love a big orange stripey kitty! And if he's selling sugar cereal that's even better, right? Tigers are even referred to as "charismatic megafauna" because they are so recognizable and well-loved. They have also killed more human beings than any of the other big cats. The most comprehensive study done so far estimates that at leas 373,000 people died due to tiger attacks between 1800 and 2009. That's over 1,800 people per year!