Shortlisted for the 2016 Silver Birch Award!
Shortlisted for 2017 Hackmatack Award!
Shortlisted for 2017 Willow Award!

A 2016 Junior Library Guild Selection
Kirkus Starred Review!

2016 CCBC Best Books for Kids and Teens Starred Selection!

Feeding time is one of the most popular events at zoos. It also prompts a smorgasbord of questions: what do different animals eat? How much food do they need to stay healthy? Where do zookeepers get all that chow? And what constitutes a special treat?

Worms for Breakfast answers all these questions and more in a cookbook-style primer packed with facts from experts at zoos and aquariums. Covering everything from regular animal nutrition to feeding babies to mimicking how animals hunt and eat in the wild, this book explores the eating habits of carnivores, omnivores, herbivores, and insectivores. Inside, you’ll also find real-life recipes from zoos around the world for meals like eucalyptus-leaf pesto, kelp tank goulash, and mealworm mush. Beware! You probably don’t want to eat any of it yourself.

Owlkids Books 
ISBN 978-1771471053 $16.95 US/$17.95 Cdn


"Monkey chow, mealworm mush, and predator popsicles, yum yum.

Here’s a lively introduction to the foods zoo and aquarium animals eat and some people who choose and prepare them. Becker opens her zoo cookery book with a recipe for an appetizer—platypus party mix (crayfish, earthworms, mealworms, and fly pupae, all live and wriggling—and a table of contents labeled “Menu.” Each double-page spread is a chapter. There’s a puzzle asking readers to match plated food with pictured animals and a spread describing a zoo kitchen. Further pages present additional surprising recipes, introductions to zoo nutritionists, and explanations of feeding methods—from formula for newborns to special treats for picky eaters—and parties, puzzles, and games mimicking feeding activities in the wild. The description of fish-feeding includes a shoutout to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s seafood guide, and the author emphasizes the conservation mission of today’s zoos. Boake’s humorous computer-generated illustrations look like animal photos set on animation cels. One spread features seven nocturnal animals helping themselves to midnight snacks from the refrigerator. Superimposed on the final image of humans and the primates who are our relatives are suggestions for supporting animals inside and outside captivity.

With fascinating facts and a lively design, this is a surprisingly nourishing treat. (glossary, puzzle answers, index)."

- Kirkus (starred)

"Interested in making a birthday cake for a tiger? According to this offbeat offering, the first thing you will need is several cups of animal blood. How about a cookie for a gorilla? You’ll need to get your hands on some dried ants (to taste). All the recipes in this entertaining volume come from zoo nutritionists and are
coupled with breezy, informative facts about zoo animals, their diets, and the challenges of keeping zoo animals happy and healthy. In addition to the ever-popular animal facts, Becker also includes brief interviews with zoo nutritionists and dietitians, which offer some nice insight into the day-to-day work of
feeding animals. While the tone is light and Boake’s photo-collage illustrations zany, Becker doesn’t avoid the tough stuff: though conservation and species protection are important jobs zoos do, animals kept there aren’t always happy. Still, this inside look at zoo work is fascinating, and the gross-out appeal of the
recipes is undeniable. Kiddos desperate to learn more about the zoo will scarf this down.
— Booklist

"Showing that even animals can be foodies, Becker reveals actual recipes served to animals in world zoos, including “Flamingo Chick Formula,” which contains egg yolks, shrimp, and oily fish, and “Presto Pesto Sauce—Koala Style,” made from eucalyptus leaves and soy-based infant formula. Boake’s off-kilter photo-collages suit the mix of silliness and science (in one image, nocturnal pangolins, bat-eared foxes, and sugar gliders raid a fridge for midnight snacks), and Becker also profiles zoo nutritionists and includes details about the animals’ dietary needs. The spectacularly gross recipes (“Kelp Tank Goulash,” anyone?) should provoke giggles—though Becker wisely advises readers not to try them at home."

  - Publishers Weekly

"Ever wondered how to feed a gorilla, an ostrich, or a skunk? Look no further than this recipebook for zookeepers. While readers aren’t likely to need to feed a partula snail, it’s fascinating to learn they eat a ground slurry of oats, dried grass, fish pellets, and cuttlefish bone. Fantastical digital collages give viewers plenty to puzzle over, such as a tiger relaxing on a pool float while eating a “Predator Popsicle.” Each spread covers a different topic relevant to zoo animal conservation (feeding babies, storing food, dealing with picky eaters) along with a fun, though not always practical, recipe. While lacking report levelinformation, this selection serves budding zoologists a treat to chew on. It provides a glimpse of the intricacies of feeding a menagerie of wild animals with diverse dietary needs. VERDICT Great for libraries in need of fun, browsable animal books."
 - School Library Journal

"A creative way to share information about the zoo, what animals eat and ways to take care of our earth which benefit animals.  I’d write more but I really want to read all the recipes from Platypus Party Mix to Midnight Mealworm Mush.  I’m seeing a program for kindergartners through fifth on graders on what animals eat in my future."
What Is ML Reading? Blog

"Definitely a first purchase for libraries and classrooms, with its kid-friendly double-page spreads and fascinating critter facts. With a quiz to match feedings to animals, a glossary, an index, and advice for the care and feeding of all of us earth creatures, this one has it all for young animal lovers.  The various reviewers love this one, partly for the pun opportunities--"a browsable animal book," "a surprisingly nourishing treat," "Kiddos desperate to learn more about the zoo will scarf this down."--and this is definitely a new nonfiction book which will feed children's curiosity and hone their appetites for more fascinating animal science."    
      - Books for Kids Blog

"This book is written in a conversational, engaging way. It is appealing for even my picky readers. The quirky illustrations, surprising facts, and gross ingredients had my students ready to read and learn. The book provides recipes, facts, and information about zoo life as well as life in the wild. We loved the combination of photographs and illustrations. Between the illustrations and text on each page there was so much to read and look at."
- NSTA Recommends

"Feeling peckish? This book has a solution for you, at least if you’re a bat, fish, elephant, or parrot. Each spread cheerfully describes a particular animal or feeding problem (how do you nourish a sick koala? What do you do with an overweight elephant?) and offers a genuine zoo recipe, complete with helpful details such as “heads and intestines removed” and “dried ants to taste.” Sidebars include brief interviews with zoo nutritionists, occasional puzzles, and additional information. This is a nibble where the Scientists in the Field approach is a meal, but it’s a fascinating buffet; the recipes give a you-are-there verisimilitude, and the book is open and informative about the challenges of feeding animals in captivity, in different climates, and sometimes in ignorance of their actual diets. The layout is showily over the top, with loud borders, multiple fonts, and the recipes tilted and layered with drop shadows. The art itself is a high-impact mixture of amusingly manipulated photocollage for the animals and digitally created humans; while it’s at the expense of clearly showing the actual featured critters, the result is entertainingly surreal as cartoonishly distorted animals cavort together. Animal lovers, especially the reluctant readers among them, will delight in the browsable approach and the window into zookeeping; you might even want to encourage them to whip up one of the less nauseating recipes. End matter includes animal advocacy tips, a glossary, a key for the puzzles, and an index."

- Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books

"Toronto author Helaine Becker serves up a treat with her latest offering, Worms for Breakfast. The book covers the gamut of what and how zoo animals eat, from the insects favoured by nocturnal pangolins to the herring gobbled up by fish-loving pelicans. Feeding and satisfying such a wide variety of palates is a huge job for an animal nutritionist, as Becker reveals. The author is also careful to underline the importance of natural habitats and to point out some of the issues involved with keeping wild creatures in captivity.

Becker writes in a friendly, conversational style and sprinkles plenty of entertaining facts throughout, such as how much poop an elephant produces, and the special food on the menu for Diwali (bears get honeyed rice pudding) and other celebrations. But it’s the delightfully gross recipes – mealworm mush, anyone? – that take the book up several notches in the fun department. Becker includes real preparations and facts from zoos and sanctuaries around the world. For example, a koala sanctuary in Australia blends up a special mixture of eucalyptus leaves and infant formula for sick animals. Becker calls it “Presto Pesto Sauce – Koala Style.” Meanwhile, California’s Birch Aquarium mixes up “Kelp Tank Goulash,” a daily dish of krill, clams, squid, smelt, and mackerel for the eels, leopard sharks, and other sea creatures in the tank.

Despite some gross ingredients, Worms for Breakfast is also visually appealing. Kathy Boake interprets the recipes and scenarios with bold and often hilarious illustrations that mix photos and digital art in wonderfully unexpected ways. She captures an assortment of animals raiding the fridge at midnight and a tiger in sunglasses  lazing in the pool with a “predator popsicle” in hand. Animal lovers and aspiring vets or nutritionists will have plenty to feast on with this fun and informative book."                                                 
- Quill and Quire

"This amusing and fact-packed title explains the quandary wildlife caretakers have each day - and how they solve it by planning and preparing special diets for each animal species they care for. Most of their charges don't eat as much as an elephant, which can gulp down 300 kg of grub per day. Imagine serving dinner in a barrel! But some are picky eaters. Sick koalas like hand-picked eucalyptus leaves mixed with soy-based infant formula. As well as providing actual recipes from zoos around the world, this fascinating book is creatively illustrated with visuals that will delight young readers. One page shows nocturnal animals raiding the fridge for a midnight snack. This well-researched volume includes activities, a glossary, and an index. It is a must for every school and classroom library. Creative teachers can use it to develop a wide variety of innovative activities related to science, mathematics, health, and language arts."

Thematic Links: Zoo Animals; Animal Care; Animal Nutrition; Zoo Nutritionist; Wildlife Rehabilitation; Conservation; Nocturnal
Animals.  - Resource Links

"In Worms for Breakfast, award-winning author Helaine Becker explores the fascinating eating habits of zoo animals.  At feeding time, zoo keepers whip up delicacies such as “Gorilla Gobble-‘Em-Ups” (a tasty concoction of boiled carrots, monkey chow and dried ants), “Predator Popsicles” (a frozen animal bone treat), and “Kelp Tank Goulash” (a mixture of krill, smelt and chopped mackerel).  The intriguing recipes are accompanied by tasty tidbits of information about the herbivores, carnivores and omnivores being served.  Readers will also learn facts about dietary requirements, feeding routines, and conservation efforts at zoos around the world.

Kathy Boake’s striking illustrations are an eye-popping mixture of photography and digital collage.  In one funny scene, nocturnal animals raid the refrigerator for a midnight jungle snack:  a skunk eagerly reaches for a takeout container of stew, a screech owl eyes a mouse in a plastic container, and a bat slurps a smoothie.  With a sombrero perched rakishly on his mighty head, an elephant demonstrates some dance moves and burns calories while trying to get at the “Elephant-Slimming Fruit Fandango” hidden inside a barrel.  Informative and entertaining, Worms for Breakfast serves up heaping helpings of food for thought."
- National Reading Campaign

"FOUR STARS.The book's title is intriguing enough, but its subtitle is the real clue to what's inside: how to feed a zoo. We know what our pets and many common wild animals eat, but what about the wide assortment of zoo residents? They include both well-known and unusual critters. So a book about what and how zoo keepers feed them is a great idea. It examines the dietary needs of animals from all corners of the globe, showing how food is prepared with special attention to babies, endangered species, nocturnal animals, those with limited diets and those that need huge amounts of food daily. It also describes how zoos try to maintain some quality of life for predatory animals by simulating the hunt for their meals and by offering challenges to others that make and use tools to feed themselves in the wild. Besides the interesting contents, the design of the book will appeal to young readers. It includes a Menu (aka Table of Contents), recipes, and interviews with several zoo staff doing specialist jobs. There's a puzzle (Are you as smart as a parrot?) and a critter-food match-up, a Glossary to help with new terms and an Index.

      The lively writing style will capture and hold reader attention throughout while the information presentation surprises and delights. There's the description of a weekly grocery list that includes 500 crickets and 35 rats, the story of how zookeepers babysat a rare palm cockatoo hatchling so it could be fed every hour and a half, an anecdote about how to solve the disposal problem of 45 kg of elephant poop a day, and a list of festive treats, like a birthday cupcake for a pair of rare Siberian tiger cubs. Understanding how zookeepers enhance the captive experience of every animal through food variety and imagination gives zoo-goers a tool to consider the value of these facilities. References on the final pages encourage readers to appreciate and care for natural settings as animal homes and to support conservation efforts for wild animals both locally and globally.

      The illustrations are a clever collage mixture of actual photos of both settings and animals (some poses appear to be computer-enhanced), with humans drawn in as needed. This creates a functional, animated display that is both engaging and realistic.

      Worms for Breakfast would be useful to share with a young person before or after a zoo visit, or to help kids think about the close and constant relationships we share with animals on a daily basis.

Highly Recommended."-CM Magazine