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May 15, 2018 BOOKLIST
Find more Classroom Connections
The human body is a fickle thing. In one moment, it’s an astonishing marvel, while in the next, a source of soul-crushing mortification. After all, the body’s less-than-glamorous functions, from defecation and urination to menstruation, have long served as fodder for off-color punch lines, awkward assumptions, and humiliating face-to-face conversations. Just ask a preteen.
Lucky for parents, educators, and curious adolescents, these pesky processes have also made a serious splash into the realm of high-interest scientific nonfiction. In fact, the past two decades in particular have witnessed a deluge of thoroughly informative and delightfully unabashed poop-, pee-, and puke-devoted tomes. And that’s not all; other previously taboo topics, including periods, puberty, and sex positivity, have trickled their way from obscurity into the mainstream.
Blending science and history with hearty advice, these books are often as engrossing as they are educational. Perhaps more important, they cultivate readers who are informed—and fiercely unashamed because of it. Whether they’re talking toilets and PMS or physiology and farts, the titles below offer a unique entryway into sometimes-difficult discussions—and into a world where knowledge is not only power but also confidence. So grab some toilet paper—or a good old-fashioned maxi pad—and dive in.
All about Anatomy
50 Body Questions: A Book That Spills Its Guts. By Tanya Lloyd Kyi. Illus. by Ross Kinnaird. 2014. Annick, $22.95 (9781554516131). Gr. 3–6.
Not for the faint of heart, this offers an unflinching look at the millions of miracles that happen in the human body every day. Seven chapters, each presented via irresistible inquiries, cover such topics as the immune system, digestion, brain functions, and locomotion. With humor, relevance, fascinating trivia, and hilarious cartoon illustrations, this book suggests that no topic concerning physiology should be taboo.
Human Body Theater. By Maris Wicks. Illus. by the author. 2015. First Second, $14.99 (9781626722774). Gr. 5–8.
Cartoonish atoms, molecules, cells, bacteria, organs, and other elements explain their forms and functions in this accessible graphic-novel guide to the human body. A jaunty skeleton emcees the performance, which is divided into 11 acts, one for each major system. Wicks’ playful cartoon artwork in saturated colors makes the potentially daunting subject of anatomy approachable and fun, but never at the expense of accuracy. A perfect balance of science and silliness.
Random Body Parts: Gross Anatomy Riddles in Verse. By Leslie Bulion. Illus. by Mike Lowery. 2015. Peachtree, $14.95 (9781561457373). Gr. 6–8.
This collection ambitiously blends human physiology with puzzle poems inspired by varying Shakespearean poetic forms, from sonnet to cinquain. “Lunchtime” spotlights the stomach (“With a pulverizing rumble, / Churn and thrash the slushy jumble”); others range from the kidney to the pancreas and eyelids. While a short paragraph revealing the described part and its function follows each poem, interspersed mixed-media color illustrations add visual interest throughout.
The Way We Work: Getting to Know the Amazing Human Body. By David Macaulay. Illus. by the author. 2008. HMH, $35 (9780618233786). Gr. 7–12.
In this exploration of the complex workings of the human body, every page builds on a previous spread, creating a clear progression from atom to whole organism. As always, Macaulay’s artwork is a marvel. From microscopic views to head-to-toe skeletal structures, the colored-pencil and watercolor images—some of them visual metaphors, some playful and wry—are filled with whimsy. A powerful, illuminating resource sure to ignite curiosity and inspire awe.
Why You Shouldn’t Eat Your Boogers: Gross but True Things You Don’t Want to Know about Your Body. By Francesca Gould. Illus. by JP Coovert. 2013. Putnam, $8.99 (9780399257902). Gr. 3–5.
This Q&A crowd-pleaser is oozing with need-to-know facts, from a tally of creatures that live on or under our skin to why some boogers are green. General browsers will be eager to pick out and share juicy passages and will come away with globs of random, useful information on topics as diverse as the medical uses of insects, the functions of yawns, and the necessity of ear wax.
History of Human Waste
Flush! The Scoop on Poop throughout the Ages. By Charise Mericle Harper. Illus. by the author. 2007. Little, Brown, o.p. Gr. 2–4.
Harper’s picture-book overview of the evolution of excrement disposal has everything kids delight in: shock value, weird facts, and gross-out references. It’s also a fascinating book, made cheerful by Harper’s acrylic-and-collage illustrations. Readers will discover the uses of urine, learn that Elizabeth I rejected the first mechanical toilet, and more.
Loos, Poos, and Number Twos: A Disgusting Journey through the Bowels of History. By Peter Hepplewhite. Illus. by Tom Morgan-Jones. 2015. Gareth Stevens, $26.60 (9781482431186). Gr. 4–8.
From the archaeological impact of dug-up dung to the devastating effects a lack of hygienic waste disposal had in early London, it seems as though this installment in the Awfully Ancient series answers every bowels-related question possible. All the while, colorful cartoon illustrations fling themselves into their subject matter with gusto. A high-interest volume that both entertains and educates.
Poop Happened! A History of the World from the Bottom Up. By Sarah Albee. Illus. by Robert Leighton. 2010. Walker, $15.99 (9780802720771). Gr. 4–6.
Albee deposits a heaping history of human sanitation—or, rather, the lack thereof—and its effects. She comments on the miasmic consequences of urbanization, waste disposal, and the roles of (not) bathing in ancient Greece up to the “Reeking Renaissance,” and also digs into the gradual adoption of better practices. Cartoon illustrations feature sludgy green highlights, while frequent sidebars offer stomach-churning profiles of relevant “Icky Occupations.”
Toilets, Bathtubs, Sinks, and Sewers: A History of the Bathroom. By Penny Colman. 1994. Atheneum, o.p. Gr. 5–8.
This intriguing account of toilets, tubs, and sanitation systems will be utterly fascinating to middle-graders (and, let’s face it, adults, too). While Colman stays within the bounds of good taste, she offers plenty of anecdotes that will have kids happily yelling, “Gross!” Lots of black-and-white photos supplement the text and show a remarkable variety of sanitation devices. This one will be hard to keep on the shelves.
Partners in Puberty
Does This Happen to Everyone? A Budding Adult’s Guide to Puberty. By Jan von Holleben and Antje Helms. Illus. by Jan von Holleben. Tr. by Jen Metcalf. 2014. Little Gestalten, $24.95 (9783899555219). Gr. 5–8.
Combining creative full-color photos of tweens with basic information about the onset of puberty, this German import addresses kissing, body changes, safe sex, and dealing with unplanned pregnancy. With its frank tone and cleverly constructed pictures, which use flowers, seeds, and sprouting grasses to present concepts from facial hair to mammary glands, this is a comfortable entry point to further discussions about sexual health and developing bodies.
Girl to Girl: Honest Talk about Growing Up and Your Changing Body. By Sarah O’Leary Burningham. Illus. by Alli Arnold. 2014. Chronicle, $12.99 (9781452102429). Gr. 5–8.
Burningham has three younger sisters, and it shows in her friendly and positive approach to explaining the ins and outs of puberty. A wide range of both physical and emotional concerns, including looking good and feeling emotionally healthy, are discussed, and the cartoon illustrations aren’t skittish about candidly depicting the text. An exhaustive resource appealing in format, tone, and the broad scope of timely topics that it covers.
Guy Stuff: The Body Book for Boys. By Cara Natterson. Illus. by Micah Player. 2017. American Girl, $12.99 (9781683370260). Gr. 5–8.
The author of the girlcentric Care and Keeping of You series offers pubescent lads a set of similarly reassuring, informally presented facts and observations. With a focus on visible and behavioral changes, from “gnarly” BO to nocturnal emissions, Natterson includes practical advice on a range of topics, including types of underwear and shaving with a blade.
The Tween Book: A Growing Up Guide for the Changing You. By Wendy L. Moss and Donald A. Moss. 2015. Magination, $14.95 (9781433819247). Gr. 5–8.
Written by a team of experienced psychologists, this self-help manual includes relevant physical, emotional, and social topics like becoming independent, maintaining hygiene, and flirting. Quizzes encourage self-reflection, and first-person stories lend an authentic voice to the advice offered. Equal space is devoted to physical changes for boys and girls. Authoritative, comprehensive, and fun to read, this handbook is universally appealing for those struggling with one of the most challenging periods of adolescence.
HelloFlo: The Guide, Period. By Naama Bloom. Illus. by Fleur Sciortino. 2017. Dutton, $19.99 (9780399187315). Gr. 5–8.
Bloom is the founder of HelloFlo, an innovative and “shame free” feminine-product delivery service. Here she translates that expertise to the preteen set. With full-color infographics and no-nonsense diagrams, Bloom candidly covers everything from developing bodies to menstrual cups. Never shying away from menstruation’s messy truths, this resource is as educational as it is empowering.
I’ve Got My Period. So What? By Clara Henry. Tr. by Gun Penhoat. 2017. Skyhorse/Sky Pony, $14.99 (9781510714229). Gr. 6–9.
Henry tackles social issues, including period shaming, the history of women’s hygiene, and the sexism that accompanies menstruation. She shakes a fist at the humiliation that many girls feel about the topic and challenges the taboos surrounding it, too. Using a bold brand of unapologetic humor, Henry assures that any girl who reads this book will not only face her first period armed with knowledge but also without feeling embarrassed or alone.
Period: A Girl’s Guide to Menstruation with a Parent’s Guide. By JoAnn Loulan and Bonnie Worthen. 2001. Book Peddlers, $15.95 (9780916773960). Gr. 5–7.
Revised from the 1979 original, this guide fuses black-and-white line drawings with practical matters such as “What do I do when I get my period for the first time?” and “What kind of exercise can I do?” Though the focus remains strictly on menstruation, with topics ranging from PMS and tampons to pelvic exams, this is nonetheless a warmly encouraging book that tells it like it is.
The Period Book: A Girl’s Guide to Growing Up. By Karen Gravelle and Jennifer Gravelle. Illus. by Debbie Palen. 2017. Bloomsbury, $13.99 (9781619636620). Gr. 4–6.
In this revamped edition of the 1996 original, Karen Gravelle and her niece, Jennifer Gravelle, enlighten girls about pubertal changes, reproductive anatomy, and menstruation, and answer common questions. Offering up both practical advice for coping with the unexpected arrival of a period and informal glimpses into parental perspectives, the Gravelles successfully celebrate menstruation while attending to some of the pressures that come with sexual maturity
Poop, Pee, and Me
Gee Whiz! It’s All about Pee. By Susan E. Goodman. Illus. by Elwood H. Smith. 2006. Viking, $15.99 (9780670060641). Gr. 4–6.
Goodman tells kids everything they want to know about pee—and some of it is quite startling. After explaining how urine has saved lives (and yes, drinking is involved), she takes a look at physiology; “Peeing through History”; and uses for urine. Replete with jaunty, sometimes-silly cartoon-style illustrations, this is a book kids will pore over.
Poop Is Power! By Robin Koontz. 2016. Rourke, $35.64 (9781681913896). Gr. 5–8.
The eye-catching tome entertainingly addresses how waste, human and otherwise, can be converted into energy. Though the tone is lighthearted and the gross-out factor is undeniable, the author keeps the focus on clearly articulated concepts. Thoughtful page design, comprehensive discussions, and fairly unusual activities encourage critical thinking.
Puke and Poo. By Angela Royston. 2010. Raintree, o.p. Gr. 2–4.
“What are farts?” “Why does puke smell?” “What makes you throw up?” The chapter headings—and the big color photos and cartoons of kids in the bathroom—will have grade-schoolers hooting and jeering. Part of the Disgusting Body Facts series, this title’s draw is, indeed, the “disgusting” angle. The book presents fascinating facts sure to encourage discussion about human physiology and the excretory system.
The Scoop on Poop. By Richard Platt. Illus. by John Kelly. 2012. Kingfisher, o.p. Gr. 4–7.
Platt’s oversize book—informative, amusing, and brimming with cartoon-style illustrations—offers so much information about waste that readers will be up to their ears in it. “Gathering Gold” covers fertilizer, “Pooper Paper” spotlights waste-turned-paper, “Backside Buffet” notes worldwide dishes that include poop and pee, and much more.
Briana Shemroske is the Books for Youth Editorial Assistant at Booklist.
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