Poison! Beware!

Poison! Beware! CoverPoison! Beware! Be an Expert Poison Spotter

The cover of this book is awesomely awful! It reminds me of Latawnya the partying horse. Here we have:

  • a poisonous spider
  • smoking a poisonous cigarette
  • on a poisonous mushroom
  • after taking poisonous pills (with a poison hazard symbol on the bottle that we are later informed is no longer the correct symbol).

The introduction (first image below) is extremely alarmist, with the first sentence of “Deadly poisons are waiting around every corner!” and four other sentences punctuated with exclamation points. It’s poison – we want kids to take this seriously! We’re not kidding! EVERYWHERE YOU LOOK THERE IS POISON!!!!! Actually, half the book is punctuated with exclamation points. They’re a bit overdone.

In the second image below, there is a statistic given that 6300 people in America die through poisoning each year. According to the CDC, there were close to 65,000 deaths due to poison in 2017…and those were just the unintentional ones!

Then, in the third image below, we are shown the old fashioned symbol and the modern hazard symbol for poison. I poked around the interwebs, and all the poison symbols I found were the traditional skull and crossbones. OSHA, the Poison Control Center, the CDC…they all showed the skull and crossbones. Was there a short-lived movement in the 90’s to change it to the X?

Watch what you eat, breathe, and touch, everyone! It’s dangerous out there!!!!!!!


Poison around every corner

Poison statistics

Poison hazard symbol


  1. “‘Let’s beat the scientists.” Wow, isn’t that wonderful?

    Poison is important to learn about but this book is way over the top.

  2. Beat the food scientists? With what, a crowbar?
    And the poor spider is possibly suicidal with depression because of all the arachnophobic people in the world.

  3. Why the hate for the food scientists? Are they conspiring to poison us, too? Also, symbol-wise, where does Mr. Yuck fit in?

  4. Technically, 65,000 is “over 6300”. Way over, but still…

    And what’s up with “beat[ing] the food scientists”? That seems like a weird tangent in the middle of warnings about TOXIC!!! POISONS!!! Warning kids not to play with rat poison and arguing the possible detrimental effects of food additives are two different messages. Kids don’t shop for or prepare their own food, anyway, so why put such emphasis on a debatable point they can’t do anything about?

  5. Technically, the spider is venomous, not poisonous. Things that bite you are venomous; things that you bite are poisonous.

    1. There are a handful of creatures that are poisonous and venomous! For instance, there are snakes that feed on venomous frogs – the frog venom is sequestered in the snake’s tissues, so the snake becomes poisonous, too.

      Those giant bottles look like they’re more likely to bash you in the head with a crowbar than to poison you.

    1. Yes – this is an English book! I recognised Steve Skidmore’s name – he is the illustrator half of the ‘Two Steves’ over here, together with Steve Barlow. They produce a lot of books for younger readers – mostly high/low stories and comic retellings of classics. Moving away from non-fiction and finding a writing partner both seem like very wise choices, judging by this book!

  6. The X was used in Europe from the sixties until replacement by the Globally Harmonized System in the past decade or so. Even in that system, it properly meant harmful or irritating. Poison had the skull and crossbones, and it is retained by GHS.

  7. I remember there was a proposal to replace the skull and crossbones with a face making a Yukk expression. The thinking was that the piratical symbol said “Cool and interesting” more than “stay away.” But obviously that didn’t catch on.

  8. I remember, as a young kid in the late ’70s or early ’80s, going around the house with yuck face poison stickers, putting them on everything you shouldn’t drink. Instead of, you know, my parents just putting them out of our reach.

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