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Review: Head Lice (Gravel)

AUTHOR: Elise Gravel
SERIES: Disgusting Critters
PUBLISHER: Tundra Books
PUBLICATION DATE: February 10, 2015
ISBN: 9781770496613
SOURCE: NetGalley
GENRE: nonfiction; picture book; health/science
GIVE IT TO: preschool, lower elementary

SUMMARY: A louse introduces facts about head lice, what they eat, how they live, and how they spread.

WHAT I LIKED: This is a really cute introduction to head lice for young readers. An unnamed louse “friend” presents basic facts about lice in a fun and cute way that will easily engage young readers.

The information is straightforward, but the narrator louse makes a cute comment about each one that will make it easier for children to remember the facts. I really liked this one about the “glue” that lice use to attach their eggs to human heads:

Children will love the simple, bold-line drawings in white, blue, red, yellow, beige, and black. Look at the teeth on that little louse! The book even compares lice to vampires because of the way they suck human blood. Know your audience here–some sensitive readers won’t like the idea that vampire insects could be their heads and sucking their blood.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: There are some missed opportunities here. While there are a couple of pages detailing how lice get transferred from one head to another, I wish the book had taken that one step further by offering young readers clear-cut advice on how to avoid head lice. After working for years in an elementary library, I know lice is a constant pest for schools. I’ve seen many, many “lice check” lines outside the school nurse’s office, so I know children frequently need to hear tips on how to avoid transmission.

The book mentions that head lice is transferred by heads touching or sharing hats, but the advice on the last page (“The next time you see head lice…run away!”) misses a huge opportunity to list common ways to avoid lice. There are few children in this world who would actually “see” head lice on another person. Even the school nurse has to really look for it. It would have been useful to remind children not to share things like hair barrettes, helmets, combs and brushes, earbuds or headsets, towels, etc.

Another missed opportunity–It would also have been useful to tell young readers (AND THEIR PARENTS) what they should do if they think they may have head lice. When I taught middle school English, the mother of two middle school sisters shaved both of her daughters’ heads when they got head lice. Shaved all their long, beautiful hair clean off. Horrible.


  • CLASSROOM TEACHERS / SCHOOL NURSES: Use to introduce head lice and discuss prevention, symptoms, and what to do if you think you have lice. Start a class discussion list of all the items that may touch their heads and transmit head lice.
  • PEDIATRICIAN OFFICES: Put it in the waiting room or in the patient rooms. Be sure to glue in a guide on what to do if you get head lice. Some people really do not know.
  • OTHER: September is Head Lice Awareness and Prevention Month.

THE BOTTOM LINE: This is fun, engaging book to introduce the topic of head lice to preschool and young elementary children. Any reading of this book should follow with a discussion of prevention tips and what to do if you think you have lice.

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: I am recommending the entire Disgusting Critters series to our elementary librarian.Others in the series include The Worm, The Rat, The Fly, The Slug, and The Spider. Not sure they should be called Disgusting though–spiders, slugs, and worms are incredibly beneficial to gardens, and even rats, flies, and head lice have their place in the world.

READALIKES:  What’s Bugging Nurse Penny? A Story About Lice (Stier); Yikes–Lice! (Caffey)

Presentation & layout: 5/5–Clean, simple, lots of white space

Quality of information presented: 3/5–Includes great facts in a fun and engaging way, but it also misses a huge opportunity to educate children on prevention and treatment.

Photos/illustrations: 5/5–Colorful, bold lines, great use of color and space

Documentation of sources: no documentation of sources included in the NetGalley ARC

Front and back matter: 1/5–Since this is a short picture book (not intended for research purposes), things like an index or Table of Contents are not needed. Still, a glossary of terms like insect, louse, transparent, nits, nymphs, etc. would be useful. No bibliography or “Further Reading” section is included, either.

Engrossing: 5/5–Very easy to read and understand. Children will definitely enjoy this fun introduction to head lice.

Writing: 5/5–This book will make learning about lice fun.

Appeal to target audience: 5/5–Especially useful for PreK-Grade 3.

Appropriate length: 3/5–Missing important information about treatment and prevention.

CONTENT: Sensitive readers may be frightened by references to lice as vampires and “Count Draculouse.” The louse in the illustrations has two sharp vampire teeth, and it may scare some children to think of this thing biting their heads and sucking their blood.

  • Language: none
  • Sexuality: none
  • Violence: none
  • Drugs/Alcohol: none
  • Other: none
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