Indulging your child’s love of potty humor
Poop: A Natural History of the Unmentionable
by Nicola Davies
What Shat That
by Matt Paget
Let’s face it: Up to a certain age, kids love anything scatological. Potty jokes. Poop references. In fact, that kind of humor is natural, part of growing up (and, secretly, lots of parents still find it funny, even if they pretend to recoil). Believe it or not, there are a lot of good poop books out there; I’ve reviewed them when they come out, and some of the classics — like The Gas We Pass (my kids’ favorite), Everyone Poops, Toilets of the World, and The Truth About Poop — are serious (but not too serious) books that detail not only all there is to know about our own system of waste management, but often go into the history of toilets, sewage systems, etc.
To that small library add Poop: A Natural History of the Unmentionable, a clever, slyly amusing little book that explains not only what poop is, and why it’s brown, but where it goes (”The real reason we’re not up to our necks in feces is that one animal’s poop is another animal’s lunch”) and how different animals use poop (”rabbits…use latrines like bulletin boards. With tens or even thousands of rabbits living in a maze of burrows, a good sniff of a latrine keeps a rabbit up-to-date with what’s going on”).
Older kids may get a kick out of What Shat That, billed as ”a guide to species and their feces.” It’s a real guidebook; each page, anchored by a photo of the relevant scat (ugh), is accompanied by a paragraph or two of useful information. Paget says animal dung has been used ”for centuries for fuel, insulation, and fertilizer, for sport and entertainment.” Monitoring your goldfish’s poop is a good way to gauge its health. Cats can be trained to use the toilet. Koalas feed their babies poop. And finally, my favorite: If, while walking in the woods, you happen across some black bear dung? Best to move on. Quickly.
A morning devoted to poop books is more than enough for me. (I remember the days when my husband and I actually hid The Gas We Pass because we couldn’t bear to read it one more time.) But I’m willing to bet there are some kids out there who could pore over these two titles endlessly. — Tina Jordan
Recommended ages: 7-10
What Shat That?: B
Recommended ages: 13 and up
The Fabulous Bouncing Chowder
Written and illustrated by Peter Brown
I was an enormous fan of last fall’s Chowder, which introduced young readers to the loveable, drooling bulldog of the title, and though I like this new installment, I feel it lacks the charm of the first book. This time, Chowder, who is not quite like other dogs — he can read, after all — decides to attend Fabu Pooch Boot Camp. But he doesn’t fit in, even when he decides to compete in the Fabu Pooch Pageant (shamelessly lured by the prize, a year’s supply of Snarf Snacks). Brown imparts a gentle, and important, lesson: Chowder succeeds, even though he is different, by pursuing something he loves. And while the vibrant illustrations pop off the page, the story just lacks magical sparkle. B- — TJ
Recommended ages: Ages 3-6”]
NEW IN PAPERBACK
Where I Want To Be
They might have formed a tight bond in childhood, but sisters Lily and Jane could not be more different — and their tangled relationship grows even more knotty in adolescence. Lily, the pretty one, has a steady boyfriend; Jane, increasingly in the grip of mental illness, became ever more lost in her own world. As the story unspools — in chapters told from their alternating points of view — it becomes clear that Jane’s narration takes place after her death. Books using the alternating-chapter device are often unwieldy, but this one isn’t, and Lily’s halting search to find her own way, to deal with her sister’s passing, and to cope with her first serious boyfriend is ultimately a moving read. A- — TJ
Recommended ages: 13 and up