What's for Dinner? book cover image

What's for Dinner?
Quirky, Squirmy Poems from the Animal World

  • 895

By: Katherine B. Hauth / Illustrated by: David Clark

Dinner is Served.

What in nature could be more poetic than the hunt for food and the struggle for survival? In twenty-nine poems readers will squirm at the realities of how the animal world catches food, eats it, and becomes dinner in turn. In these quirky poems readers are introduced to many animals with disgusting eating habits, such as the marabou stork that lurks on the periphery, like a vampire in the shadows, waiting for a chance to pick at a rotting carcass. The dermestid beetle does not mind doing the dirty work, cleaning up animals on the road side and often made busy at museums cleaning up bones for exhibits. And, baby wasps hatch inside an unsuspecting caterpillar and eat their way out.

Gross, cool, and extremely funny, David Clark’s illustrations get to the heart (and skin and guts) of the food chain and the web of life, depicting the animal world at dinner time in all its gory glory. Back matter includes further information about the animals in the poems and the scientific terms used.

Look Inside the Book:

Author & Illustrator Bios:

Katherine B. Hauth, author

Katherine B. Hauth lives in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, just an hour from some great hikes in the desert and mountains. Many of her poems are inspired by her observations of animals while hiking--or just walking around her neighborhood. Katherine is the author of Night Life of the Yucca: The Story of a Flower and a Moth. She can tell you what rattlesnake tastes like.

Read more about Katherine.

David Clark, illustrator

David Clark is the illustrator of more than fifteen books for children, including Higgins Hole by Kevin Boreen, What's for Dinner? Quirky, Squirmy Poems from the Animal World by Katherine B. Hauth (a winner of the New Mexico Book Awards), and Pirate Bob by Kathryn Lasky. He is also the illustrator and co-creator of the syndicated comic strip Barney & Clyde. He lives in Luray, Virginia.

Read more about David.

Awards & Honors:

  • New Mexico Book Award, Children's Picture Book Grade School to Junior High
  • NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12

Editorial Reviews:

Publishers Weekly

Hauth's funny, eloquent poems celebrate the often-grisly realities of the food chain, depicted in Clark's scraggly ink and watercolor illustrations. A mole gags on a banana slug, a rat "gets a hug" from a boa constrictor, and a flattened road becomes a roadkill restaurant ("In adjoining rooms, they dine al fresco-/ upper thigh for ants, lower thigh for wasps"). Readers will learn plenty along the way. "Eating Words," points out that "vore means eat" and "carni means meat," therefore, "carnivores eat/ snakes and lizards, deer and lamb,/ carrion, birds, fish, and ham." Appended notes provide additional animal facts. A satisfying mix of tutelage and repartee.

Kirkus Reviews, starred review

The conclusion of this volume's title poem--"finding food/ is not a joke./ Living things must eat/ or croak"--with its blunt appraisal of the whey of the world per se, sets the tone of Hauth and Clark's graphic exploration of who eats what. As the poet delicately surveys the somewhat unsavory aspects of survival, the illustrator's hilarious watercolor-and-ink renderings defuse the deadliness of the subject matter. The result is an enriching overview of the natural world spiced with a Dorothy Parker-esque sense of the macabre that children will absolutely relish. A telling example is "Waste Management," in which a light treatment of the turkey vulture's carrion-loving ways--"it likes to feast before the worms,/ which saves us all from stink and germs"--is dramatized. Serenely smiling, it pulls ruby, taffy-like sinews from a ribcage while a tiny fly rests on the tip of a cloven hoof separated from its former haunches by a bloody tire track. Other poems look at the wildly diverse ways in which organisms lure or capture their prey; still others break down sophisticated concepts like symbiosis and parasitism in brilliantly accessible terms. Delectable poetic lessons on the food chain designed to help young readers rather literally digest the natural world.

Language Arts

As the title poem cautions us, "...finding food/ is not a joke./ Living things must eat/ or croak." In the natural world, all creatures have their place in the food chain. Hauth's 29 poems utilize humor, action verbs, and scientific language to convey information about predator-prey relationships. Clark's illustrations further illuminate Hauth's wit, and serve as concrete exmples of the actions depicted in each poem. While the "quirkier" aspects of the food chain receive the lion's share of attention--the mouth-numbing slime of the banana slug, the baby wasps that hatch within the caterpillar they consume for their first meal, and the beetle and moth eggs that receive nourishment from sloth dung, to name a few--Hauth provides the reader with a foundation in food chain relationships and vocabulary. Several poems illustrate various forms of symbiosis; another one, entitled "Eating Words," explains, stanza by stanza, the difference between insectivores, carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores. The juxtaposition of poems across the gutter allows the reader to see similarities between the eating habits of very different creatures. For example, both the nighthawk and the little brown bat catch insects at night while in flight; the marabou stork and the hyena both eat the same kill, but at different times. Two sections within the back matter provide the reader with additional information about the poems and animals, and a book list is included for curious readers.

School Library Journal

These 21 poems about eating and being eaten in the animal kingdom have appealing illustrations and loads of interesting facts. Some of the selections are almost proselike in their descriptions, even occasionally eschewing poetic language or rhythm in favor of more information about animals or how they eat. Some, however, make use of the poetic form, playing with structure to mimic a particular animal or action, or using rhyme to deliver a relevant punch line. For more science-minded readers (or classroom teachers), concluding pages define scientific words, explain each of the poems, and suggest further resources. Ink-and-watercolor images balance grotesque or absurd touches (think bulging eyes, sharp teeth, lolling tongues) with bright colors and attractive details. This book should find an appreciative audience in most libraries.

Library Media Connection

This book demonstrates the predator/prey relationship in poetry as Ms. Hauth expounds on animals from insects to birds and fish to bears. The title poem offers a smorgasboard of items animals call food, the poems relate the perils of eating and being eaten, and readers learn interesting facts about the animals. This is an excellent book for life cycle studies and food chains. Students could write their own poems to explain a particular science process or concept. Additional information about the poems and explanations of several scientific words are included. Some poems are a few short lines. Some rhyme; many do not.

NSTA Recommends

Start with poetry, end with science in this "quirky, squirmy" book about predators and their prey. Fanciful drawings make this book fun to share-a nighthawk scooping insects from the air, a wood turtle "stompin'/ and slammin'" in a dance that forces worms out of the ground, four seemingly lazy positions that set a polar bear up to grab prey. Reading each poem aloud starts the fun.

But the real science is found in the appendix, which provides the science. The nighthawk's open-mouthed flying position terrified goatherds. The vibrations of the wood turtle sound like rain to worms. The polar bear has strong, massive jaws and great eyesight. This NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Book is a great way to introduce the role and adaptations of predators in an interdisciplinary and motivational way at the elementary level. Whether the teacher goes on to provide the explanation or asks groups of students to further research each predator, this book on eating is bound to energize the classroom.


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ISBN: 978-1-57091-472-0

ISBN: 978-1-60734-279-3 PDF
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Ages: 7-10
Page count: 48
7 x 10

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