Book Reviews

Book Review: Natural Attraction (Iris Gottlieb)

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Iris Gottlieb has written a pretty cool field guide to (1) friends, (2) frenemies, and (3) other symbiotic animal relationships (aka enemies). From Ren & Stimpy to Rocko’s Modern Life, animals are strange. Real animals are even weirder. Generally, Gottlieb’s book will give a two to four-page spread to an unexpected pair of animals. One page will give a brief, interesting description about the animals, and the other page will describe their relationship status, where it happens, and what the takeaway is.


Coyotes and American badgers stop, collaborate, and listen. Badgers dig holes to catch rodents, and coyotes chase them out in the open. They intentionally help each other out, so that when a rodent escapes one, the other catches it and eats it. These two animals will even play together. This occurs in the North American grasslands.

Clownfish live in sea anemones. (Thanks to Finding Nemo, we all know how to pronounce that word.) A Sea anemones’ tentacles have poison in them, which they use to paralyze fish passing by so they can eat dinner. Clown fish (like Finding Nemo’s Marlin), however, has a special music coating that protects them from the anemones’ digestive pit. Marlin can stay safe from predators, and can actually act as a lure to draw the predator close to the sea anemone. The hunter becomes the hunted. Sort of.


Red crab spiders live on (and mooch off of) pitcher plants. When an insect slips and falls into the plants gastric juices, the spider, tethered to the top of the plant by its silk thread, will sometimes pull a Spiderman move. It will spin an air bubble around its mouth  like a deep-sea diving helmet and dive into the juices to retrieve the helpless insect.


The pearlfish and the sea cucumber. This one’s just weird.

Rough-skinned newts are extremely poisonous, yet garter snakes, having developed a resistance to the poison, eat them like candy. The thing is, newts “can now produce enough poison to kill thousands of mice or up to twenty humans” (97). Yet it doesn’t affect the snake. And so newts somehow make eve more poison. Until they take over the world, I guess.

Jewel Wasps and American Cockroaches. I don’t like roaches, but here I almost feel sorry for them. Almost. They can defy nature and atom bombs, but they can’t seem to get past the emerald-green jewel wasp which enjoys stinging the roach, thus paralyzing its legs, then stinging near the brain, paralyzing that too, chewing half an antennae, and then pulling it into its burrow. Then it plants an egg into the roach, and when the larvae hatches it enjoys its first meal.

Well, that escalated quickly.

The illustrations are quite good in this book. There is a map at the end showing where in the world each relationship pair occurs.


This was a pretty cool book. With quite a few pairs, one member is a cleaner. It just cleans the fish (or rhinoceros, or what have you). Or other pairs have to do with a flower and a small insect of some sort. But, as I’ve written above, this is not entirely the case. There are some pretty strange relationships out there. Most of the relationships in the book are actually interesting, even if I didn’t want to write about them. This is a book older kids will enjoy.


  • Author/Illustrator: Iris Gottlieb
  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Sasquatch Books (May 23, 2017)

Find it on Amazon and Sasquatch Books!

Disclosure: I received this book free from Sasquatch Books. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

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