You Just Can't Help It!: Your Guide to the Wild and Wacky World of Human Behavior


How many times have you been frightened and felt the hairs on the back of your neck stand up? Or been unable to hold back a laugh? Or flinched when an object whizzed by, too close for comfort? The thing is, you just can’t help yourself — you’re only human! Part Desmond Morris’s The Naked Ape, part MAD Magazine, and all Jeff Szpirglas, this unique book provides a cultural, historical, and socio-biological perspective on human behavior.

Szpirglas’s goofy, kid-friendly sensibility ...

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How many times have you been frightened and felt the hairs on the back of your neck stand up? Or been unable to hold back a laugh? Or flinched when an object whizzed by, too close for comfort? The thing is, you just can’t help yourself — you’re only human! Part Desmond Morris’s The Naked Ape, part MAD Magazine, and all Jeff Szpirglas, this unique book provides a cultural, historical, and socio-biological perspective on human behavior.

Szpirglas’s goofy, kid-friendly sensibility paired with the book’s look, energy, and scope is guaranteed to engage and captivate young readers. Kids will read about body language, birth order, staring contests, fits of laughter, crowd behavior, sniffing dirty diapers, yawning, dreaming, and the art of lying — only to realize that science is at work behind each action!

You Just Can’t Help It! is an enthralling and slightly zany exploration of the basic human biology that determines our reactions, social interactions, and the ways we communicate with one another.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“With a breezy text supported by a lively design, [Jeff Szpirglas] again presents science in a way certain to attract middle-grade and middle-school readers…Popular science through and through, you can’t help enjoying this.”
Kirkus Reviews

"A fun way to introduce young readers to many aspects of human behavior, and may whet their appetites to explore some of the topics in greater depth."
Quill & Quire

School Library Journal
Gr 3–6—Four chapters focus on the senses, emotions, communication, and interpersonal relationships, and humorous examples depict a range of intriguing facts about human behavior. The conversational tone relates scientific ideas to topics relevant in popular culture, such as comparing instant messaging to signals sent from the amygdala or hypothalamus. Though occasionally flippant in tone, overall each fast-paced, energetic section features an intriguing glimpse into scientific study, covering such topics as a mother's preference for her own child's soiled diapers and how the act of waving spreads through a crowd of fans in a stadium. Succinct answers convey both brevity and clarity. Direct questions encourage readers' participation. "If you had to choose between candy and vegetables, which would you choose?" (The popular choice is sweets, of course, though the text explains that a preference for sugar is apparently present in the fetus.) Fascinating statistics are interspersed among punchy color photographs. A long list of the experts consulted concludes this dynamic entry, but there are no source notes. A surprising amount of information is conveyed in these snazzy trivia snippets, which are likely to illicit both numerous "eews" and "cools," all in one satisfied breath.—Meg Smith, Cumberland County Public Library, Fayetteville, NC
VOYA - Matthew Weaver
What Szpirglas' guide lacks in depth, it tries to make up for in enthusiasm. The Toronto elementary school teacher offers a diverting guide, touted as a combination of 1967?s The Naked Ape (McGraw Hill, 1967) and MAD Magazine. The book covers a broad array of topics, including the behavior patterns of first-born to youngest child, and the fact that people register a disgusting smell with a facial reaction. All are punctuated by photos or graphic illustrations. The result is sort of like a textbook that never gets too involved in its material and is working really hard to appear cool while shouting lots of random facts. In one of the more eye-catching case studies, Szpirglas tells us about an Australian scientific study to determine whether mothers will prefer the smell of their own child's poopy diaper to another child's. Whether or not the result interests you will determine if you are the target reader for this book. But scientist Robert Provine's finding that people yawn in less stimulating environments is not particularly earth shattering. Nor are the rules about how to act at a classical concert versus a rock concert. The book serves as a good, if brief, gateway to get younger children interested in science and human behavior but does not really aim any higher. There's enough here to momentarily grab the audience's attention, but it is up to someone else to hold on to it and help it grow. Reviewer: Matthew Weaver
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781926818085
  • Publisher: Owlkids Books
  • Publication date: 3/1/2011
  • Pages: 64
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 1000L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.52 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 0.24 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeff Szpirglas is the award-winning author of Gross Universe and Fear this Book, among others. His stories have been published in Chirp and chickaDEE magazines, where he also worked as a kids’ page editor. He has written for the television series' Polka Dot Shorts, Ricky’s Room, and System Crash, and co-produced two radio pieces for CBC’s Out Front. He lives in Toronto, where he influences young minds on a daily basis as an elementary school teacher.

Josh Holinaty graduated from the Alberta College of Art & Design in 2007, and studied at the New York Studio Program (a satellite of Parson’s New School for Design). His work has been exhibited internationally, at galleries in Los Angeles, Germany, New York, Edinburgh, and elsewhere. He has illustrated for The Globe and Mail, EYE Weekly, Broken Pencil Magazine, and Transworld Skateboarding Magazine among others. He lives in Edmonton.

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Read an Excerpt

Introduction to Chapter 1: Senses Showdown:

Sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell: you’ve got five senses to help you interact with the world around you. Everything that happens to you involves one or more of your senses. Consider this: right now, you’re reading this book (uh, I hope). Your sense of touch tells you what the pages feel like. Your sense of sight reveals the letters, words, and pictures. I suppose you could even find out what this book tastes like. But I don’t recommend it.

How you act and react to the world means using combinations of your senses. For instance, let’s say you visit somebody’s house for a meal, and for dinner, they serve some unusual meat — like tongue or brains. Does the look of them put you off? Does the texture of those brains in your mouth make you shudder with revolt? What if the smell and taste actually turned out to be pretty darn good?

It’s time to take a look at your senses in more detail. Questions will be answered: How do your senses help you interact with other people? How do they keep you safe and healthy? And why shouldn’t you try a staring contest with wild gorillas?

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Senses Showdown
Our five senses — sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell — shape how we interact with the world around us. Which sense is the strongest? How do senses affect our emotions? How do they keep us safe and healthy? And why is it a bad idea to start a staring contest with a gorilla? From our first experiences with smell (in the womb), to the sound of a baby’s cry, the feeling of a tickle, the way that looking at certain colors can calm or excite us, the pages in this chapter will awaken all the senses.

Chapter 2: In a State
Whether we’re laughing, blushing, weeping, or asleep and dreaming, our days and nights are made up of a series of actions and reactions. From the moment your alarm rings (do you leap out of bed, whack the snooze button, or hide under the covers?), to the nerves you feel before that math test, to the giggle session with your bff, to laying your head back on your pillow again at night, you’re constantly reacting to the world around you. Find out all about the emotional states and reactions our bodies go through day in and day out.

Chapter 3: Say WHAT?!
Regardless of what language we speak, we’re surrounded by words, both written and spoken. Language isn’t important only for the words — how we use it often says more than the words themselves. And sometimes we don’t even need words to send out a strong message; our body language can communicate a lot without a sound being uttered. From learning to read the cues of body language, to what’s behind many of our gestures and hand signals, and even why it’s so hard to lie, the words of this chapter will tell all about the silent world of nonverbal communication, and why you use the words you do.

Chapter 4: You + World
With over 6.5 billion people on the planet, we’re one crowded place. To be social, we use a combination of our senses, and our verbal and nonverbal behaviors. From our place in the family (birth order), to our need for personal space, to how crowds behave, to table manners, and more, what shapes how well we relate with others, and how do the rules and regulations we live by make sure we get along well? So sit up straight, fix your hair, make sure there’s nothing unsightly hanging from your nose, and read this chapter.

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