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The Picture Book Buzz

Plants Fight Back - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

Many of us know, some from first hand experience, that many plants can defend themselves. With thorns (roses), spines (catus), or irritants (poison ivy). But the idea of plants communicating with each other about an insect attack, sheltering armies of attack ants, or sending chemical signals to wasps asking for help almost seems like science fiction.

But these are all true facts about ways plants have developed survival strategies to foil their predator's munchies. This humorously titled STEM nonfiction picture book shows how plants use camouflage, coatings, chemicals, and collaboration to combat predators or unwary pedestrians.

Plants Fight Back

Author: Lisa Amstutz

Illustrator: Rebecca Evans

Publisher: Dawn Publications (2020)

Ages: 4-8



Plant defenses, STEM, animals, and nature.


Beautiful illustrations provide kids with information on the clever adaptations that help plants survive.

How do you survive when danger is near and you are rooted in the ground? Plants use their defenses and fight back!

As readers turn the pages of this beautifully illustrated book, they will find fun and poetic language describing various situation where different plants find themselves under attack. This is followed by informative, science-based lessons about these plants and their survival methods. Backmatter includes a glossary and a STEM challenge activity to use at home or in the classroom.

Opening Lines:

It's tough being rooted

When danger is near.

So what do plants do?

Do they tremble in fear?

Do they give up the fight?

Wait for help to appear?


Whenever plants find themselves

under attack,

They use their defenses,

That's right . . .

Plants fight back!

What I liked about this book:

This is a really fun and ingenious way to introduce the various defensive methods that plants have developed to prevent, limit, or reduce the devastation that herbivores can wreck on them and an ecosystem.

Lisa Amstutz uses rhyme to set up the defensive strategy of a plant and then a sidebar to explain a little more about the plant's anatomy that helps it protect itself. Enabling the book to be read for younger children (by reading just the rhyme) and providing additional information in prose for older, or curious, readers.

Some fold their leaves and pretend to be dead,

in hopes that a predator might be misled.

Text © Lisa Amstutz, 2020. Image © Rebecca Evans, 2020.

A mimosa plant quickly folds its leaves together when touched.

The moving leaves scare away insects. Tapirs and other animals

avoid the closed-up leaves because they look like dead twigs.

Rebecca Evans does a remarkable job of portraying gorgeous, realistic landscapes and authentic animals, while still slipping in the occasional eye glance (as above), or concerned look, on the animal's faces to ellicit an emotional response from the reader. Though I'm not sure I've seen a "belly-laughing" mouse before, they are cute and physically accurate.

Text © Lisa Amstutz, 2020. Image © Rebecca Evans, 2020.

While the majority of the book focuses upon animal predators, a cactus is painful to humans, too. And the chili peppers, avoided by rabbits, can also be painful to other mammals (including squirrels & people). The book does address poison ivy (& poison oak in the back matter), nettle, and the manchineel tree which are harmful or poisonous to people. While animals avoid the manchineel tree, based on experience passed down through generations (note the mama monkey pulling her baby away), the bright, red plaque warning of poison is for us.

Text © Lisa Amstutz, 2020. Image © Rebecca Evans, 2020.

The back matter contains an "Explore More" section which includes helpful photographs and gives additional juicy tidbits on the plants' defenses or animals that broach them. Such as bighorn sheep, whose horns & hooves allow them to munch on cactus. It also includes a literacy connection, glossary, STEM challenge, and a snippet of Lisa & Rebecca's inspiration in making the book. Overall, it is an excellent introduction to plant adaptations which fool or foil their predators. As well as a great book for early ecology education and general plant awareness.


- using any craft materials you have, create your own plant that can defend itself. Or you could draw or write a description of your plant. Where would it live? How will it defend itself?

- what plants in your area are dangerous or irritating to people? Do you know how to avoid them? (Good video on identification of these 3 plants & their locations -

- why do you think blackberry bushes have thorns? Who are they defending themselves from? Why do think goats eat them?

- what other house plants are poisonous or harmful to pets? Check out

If you missed it, be sure to check out Monday's interview with Lisa Amstutz (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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