When Lunch Fights Back

Wickedly Clever Animal Defenses

  • Interest Level: Grade 4 - Grade 8
  • Reading Level: Grade 5

The octopus spies a nice, tasty mantis shrimp. It swims over for a closer look at the small creature. Then—WHAM!—the mantis shrimp strikes a nasty blow with its hammer-like forelimb. The octopus shrinks back, defeated. That wasn’t such an easy meal after all . . .

In nature, good defenses can mean the difference between surviving a predator’s attack and becoming its lunch. Some animals rely on sharp teeth and claws or camouflage. But that’s only the beginning. Meet creatures with some of the strangest defenses known to science. How strange? Hagfish that can instantaneously produce oodles of gooey, slippery slime; frogs that poke their own toe bones through their skin to create claws; young birds that shoot streams of stinking poop; and more.

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Interest Level Grade 4 - Grade 8
Reading Level Grade 5
Genre Science
Category 5 Kinds of Nonfiction, 5KN: Expository Literature, 5KN: Narrative Nonfiction, Animals, STEM, STEM: Life Science/Animals
Copyright 2015
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Millbrook Press ™
Language English
Number of Pages 48
Publication Date 2014-08-01
Reading Counts! Level 6.4
Text Type Informational/Explanatory
BISACS JNF003000, JNF051050, JNF051150
Dewey 591.47
Graphics Full-color illustrations
Dimensions 9.75 x 9.75
Lexile 920
ATOS Reading Level 5.9
Accelerated Reader® Quiz 167386
Accelerated Reader® Points 1.0
Features Author/Illustrator note, Awards, Bibliography/further reading, Glossary, Index, Photo captions, Reviewed, Starred Reviews, and Table of contents

Author: Rebecca L. Johnson

Rebecca L. Johnson writes award-winning nonfiction for children and young adults about scientific discoveries and the scientists who make them. She hopes her books will inspire new generations of scientists by introducing readers to some of the remarkable species with whom we share the planet. Learn more at www.rebeccajohnsonbooks.com.


  • Maine Student Book Award Reading List, Long-listed, 2015
  • Cybils Finalist, Nominated, 2015
  • Children's Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year, Winner, 2015
  • Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books, Winner, 2014


Library Media Connection

“This combination of storytelling, scientific fact, and attractive photographs will appeal to many readers, especially boys….Highly Recommended.”―starred, Library Media Connection


“From the award-winning science author Johnson comes another somewhat gross but definitely engrossing book…. Some of the animals are featured in other similar books, but few bring them together with such a punch.” —Booklist

School Library Journal

“This title explodes with fascinating facts and action-packed photographs that convey how different creatures have evolved to escape predators…. A visually stimulating and informative addition.” —School Library Journal

Kirkus Reviews

“This is an outstanding way for readers to meet scientists at work in both field and lab…. Thrilling reading for budding biologists.” —starred, Kirkus Reviews