Books — Poop: A Natural History of the Unmentionable

The joy of poop

Explaining the fascinating world of Number Two to kids

By Lisa Parsons

Poop: A Natural History of the Unmentionable, by Nicola Davies and Neal Layton, Candlewick Press, 2004, 61 pages.

Admit it, given the chance to see what rhinoceros poop looks like, you wouldn’t cover your eyes.

Poop is smart and playful and, with scruffy illustrations (including rhinoceros poop) and headings like “Fossil Poop” and “Sloppy or Ploppy?,” will provide hours of educational fun for you and your young one.

Any child who’s graduated from Everyone Poops (by Taro Gomi, 1995) needs Poop. The former helps toddlers and preschoolers understand the basics-I eat, therefore I poop. Poop goes much further. This is the book for kids who ask questions you can’t answer.

It’s also a book for any kid (and isn’t this all of us?) who would be tickled to know that koala babies eat their mothers’ poop, and moles have little bathroom areas in their burrows and orangutans have the smelliest poop of all.

In Poop, cartoon lab scientists peer at beakers full of poop, horses poop while making small talk, otters make a huge display of poop and sloths dangle from branches above steaming piles of poop (which they produce every four days). Certain ants squeeze liquid poop out of greenflies for dinner; the greenflies are almost constantly pooping anyway, so it’s not hard. Millipedes build homes out of millipede poop.

And much, much more.

But it’s not mere sensationalism. This is Science 101-why different animals’ poop is different, what makes it the way it is, why animals sniff other animals’ poop and what they learn from it, how poop spreads plant seeds, and so on. All in very basic introductory terms. It’s the kind of book that gets kids interested in asking questions about the world around them.

Nicola Davies, Poop’s author, has a zoology degree, has written kids’ books about animals, and has produced natural history programs for BBC (in England, the book is titled Poo.)

Poop includes a small glossary (Dung: poop. Feces: poop. Latrine: toilet. Pat: sloppy poop.) and a small index so you can quickly look up whichever queasy/fascinating fact you want to relay to your mother or the garbage man (Greenflies. Page 44).

Here’s a good one for little Johnny: Baby birds hang their butts out of the nest to poop. They can’t fly, they can’t even get their own food-but they can still keep their rooms clean.

- Lisa Parsons

2004 HippoPress LLC | Manchester, NH