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You Just Can’t Help It by J. Szpirglas

Szpirglas, Jeff.  You Just Can’t Help It:  Your Guide to the Wild and Wacky World of Human Behavior, Toronto:  Owlkids Books, 2010.  Print.

The publisher describes this brightly coloured and heavily-illustrated book as “The Naked Ape meets MAD Magazine”.  It is a fun and irreverent look at what makes people behave the way they do.  The four chapters cover senses, emotions, communication and interactions with other people and the world around us.

The presentation of the material is excellent for the upper elementary (ages 9-12) audience.  Throughout there are different fonts, shapes, styles, colours and media.  One page contains many elements including sidebars, boxes, cartoons, drawings, photographs.

On each page there is something fun.  For example on page 19, which covers the subject of kissing, facts about kissing are listed as “The Good”, “The Gross” and “The Unusual”.  There is also a photograph of a cat with oversized red whiskers drawn in.  The most amusing, though, is the composite picture of a robin with worms in its beak, looking like it is about to drop them into the open mouth of a human baby.

The text includes many subjects that will interest pre-teens such as hand-gestures, personal space, slang, lying and fear. The language is age appropriate and there are occasional activities for readers to try. Szpirglas uses attention-grabbing headings to present facts.  For example, “Stinky Snarl” introduces a paragraph on facial responses to bad smells.  An experiment on reflex and emotional tears is titled “a real tearjerker”.

This book is a nice blend of fun, fact and learning.  Highly recommended for school and public libraries.

Highly recommended:  4 stars out of 4
Reviewer:  Sandy Campbell

Sandy is a Health Sciences Librarian at the University of Alberta, who has written hundreds of book reviews across many disciplines.  Sandy thinks that sharing books with children is one of the greatest gifts anyone can give.