The post in which my kids ran a mile but I had a ball!

posted in: Jo Moore, Nick Sharratt, Steve Alton | 8

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The Icky, Sticky Snot and Blood Book by Steve Alton, Nick Sharratt and Jo Moore, one of the 6 shortlisted books up for the Royal Society’s Young People’s Book Award, was torn out of my hands as soon as I unwrapped it.

The frontcover has a big globule of squishy snot dribbling down it, all the illustrations are done by the instantly recognisable and widely loved Nick Sharratt, and the book is full of crazy, impressive, sometimes slightly icky pop-ups. You can see how this would appeal to a lot of children!

Under a cloak of grossness Steve Alton has snuck in a great deal of information about breathing, blood and bogeys. You can learn what bogeys are made of (and why it’s not a great idea to eat them), what pus is made from, and how far across the room your heart could squirt blood if you were to cut the main artery from it.

Yep, this book isn’t for the very squeamish (though many kids seem to enjoy being “squeemed” a little) but it’s exactly the sort of book I’d offer to reluctant readers or thrill seekers: Like a breathtaking fairground ride The Icky, Sticky Snot and Blood Book zooms along making your stomach squirm, inducing oohs and aahs and is lots of fun (if you like that sort of thing).

My girls certainly did enjoy this rollercoaster of a read, but if I’m being pernickity and trying to find a reason to rank it higher or lower any other book shortlisted for the Royal Society’s Young People’s Book Award it would be the paper engineering.

The pop-ups, flaps and tabs are great fun, but a few of them make reading the text rather difficult (for example, you have to half shut the book to read the text hidden behind the pop-out body) and whilst they’re all enjoyable, I don’t think they are all as clever as many of them are in the other pop-up book shortlisted for this prize, How the World Works. Rather than adding to the understanding of the issue being explored some are included for pure enjoyment purposes (for example the pop-up amusement park at the end). Fun and pleasure is no bad thing, but if the pop-up engineering can be informative as well as eyecatching so much the better.

Don’t get me wrong, The Icky, Sticky Snot and Blood Book is a super book, that will grab everyone’s attention. It’s informative, funny and just a little bit disgusting. This science book will have your kids snorting not snoozing.

Inspired by The Icky, Sticky Snot and Blood Book I decided the girls and I would create some snot of our own. (What can I say!!)

Actually what we set about making was oobleck, or rather a non-newtonian fluid made out of cornflour (corn starch) and water, with a little bit of green food colouring. This cornflour gloop behaves in very surprising ways which are both yucky and fascinating.

Here’s how we did it:

The girls simply mixed one part water with two parts corn flour plus a dribble of food colouring.

I then put my hands in the goo and started playing. At this point the girls ran a mile. They were disgusted by the cornflour mixture and how it behaved and didn’t want anything to do with it. They stood outside the kitchen door screaming at me to get rid of the “snot” because it was “disgusting, yucky, horrible”. This is from the same girls who happily eat their own bogeys…

So the girls didn’t get to play with this amazing substance, but I couldn’t get enough of it. Non-newtonian fluids are amazing – under pressure they seem solid, but when pressure is lessened they turn into fluid. This means that you can work a lump of the cornflour goo into a ball that feels like playdough or putty in your hands by rolling it between your palms…

…but as soon as you stop moving your hands, the goo just oozes through your fingers.

There are some really amazing things you can do with this mixture. If you make enough of it, you can walk across it as long as you move quickly enough:

If you place it on top of a speaker it looks like alien life form, reacting to the pressure created by sound waves.

You can cut it with a knife, like cutting cork or polystyrene:

But like a fluid you can blow bubbles in it…

…and it flows when you tip the bowl!

It’s cheap and easy to make and I can’t encourage you enough to try it out as soon as possible, with or without kids. It’s so interesting, amazing and plain weird.

Just in case you’re not convinced yet, here’s one more video:

A sensible word of caution: When you’ve finished playing don’t pour your oobleck down the plug. Rather, bag it up and bin it, otherwise you’ll end up with a blocked drain.

Whilst I played with the oobleck/snot I listened to:

  • Dragon Snot by Peter Weatherall
  • The Snot Song by The Mudcakes
  • Booger Stew by Jimmy Bean and the Playground Revolution

  • Other activities which would work well alongside reading The Icky, Sticky Snot and Blood Book include:

  • Learning about blood using cheerios and mini marshmallows using this tutorial from
  • Investigating your lung volume using this tutorial from Science Kids NZ
  • Finding out what effect exercise has on your heart rate using this lesson plan from the BBC

  • What’s the most disgusting mixture you and your kids have ever made? What projects have you ended up playing with because your kids have refused any further part in it?

    This book is one of six books shortlisted for the Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize 2011, an award that celebrates the best recent books that communicate science to young people. The winner will be announced on December 1st.

    Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher. This review, however, reflect my own and honest opinion.

    Today’s post is part of this week’s Stem Friday roundup of children’s books which focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. The host this week is Diane Chen at Practically Paradise.

    8 Responses

    1. Katy

      We love this book too. Have you seen the companion The Gooey, Chewy, Rumble, Plop Book about the digestive system? Lots of urgh! potential there. It seems to be out of print – we had it out from the library a while back – but well worth finding.

      • Zoe

        Hi Katy, yes we’ve seen ours from the library too, but unfortunately pop up books don’t tend to fare well in libraries it seemed so quite a lot wasn’t working, But yes, and excellent companion to the snot book!

      • Zoe

        Hi Ali, I’m just sorry it’s taken me 38 years to find out about them! Why weren’t they in our science lessons at school?

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