Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Poop Happened

Poop Happened!: A History of the World from the Bottom Up by Sarah Albee, illustrated by Robert Leighton. Bloomsbury. May 2010. Reviewed from ARC from publisher. Middle grade.

It's About: Poop.

The Good: What about the bathrooms? Such a big question, so rarely addressed. Especially when there were no bathrooms.

This book is organized in chapters and broken down into easily readable sections, rarely more than a few paragraphs long, with plenty of pictures. As the cover indicates, it covers everything from Egyptian to Outer Space toilets.

Albee uses the history of poop -- where humans poop, and how, if at all, they remove poop from where they live -- to tell about the history of waste removal (or waste non-removal, as the case may be). It's more than poop, though, because Albee explains the link between waste and disease. Seriously, learning how many diseases that people get (and die from) that basically comes from contamination from poop is enough to make you throw up, and then become an obsessive compulsive hand washer. And then, when you're reading history and biography books and that disease gets mentioned and you realize its because it was the poop... excuse me as I go throw up and wash my hands.

Poop Happened also provides an interesting look at the changing view of modesty when it comes to bodily functions such as urination, defecation, and what happens to that waste. I passed this on to my fourth grade niece, and one of her main "ewws" (and mine, too) was how public some of the peeing and pooping was. It's especially intriguing to think that while it was fairly public, it still wasn't really written about in novels and such.

Much as I love history and historical fiction, one thing is certain. I could never live in a time or place without bathrooms and flush toilets and sewer systems and sewage treatment plants.

One final thought: one of my recent non-book-blog blog obsessions is reading the Georgian London blog, which addresses all issues and news of Georgian era England. Albee does not include this item in her book (I mean, she cannot include everything and she includes a heckuva lot) but I thought you may be interested in it.

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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy


The1stdaughter said...

I can just see a group of ten year old boys all sitting down on the steps in the hallway of their school just cracking up over this book. Definitely an interesting topic, although seeing as I just ate dinner I may have to pass on it for a few hours.

Liz B said...

Oh, yes, it'll be very popular!

I read and it seemed never reviewed MIDWIFE'S TALE by Laurel Ulrich. GREAT book. And I'd hand to any "good old days" person, as Ulrich describes (based on the journals of an 18th century midwife) the job of cleaning out/moving the outhouse, as well as using poop as manure on gardens, or poop being in doorways (because people went there), and all the worms/bugs (i mean reall bugs) people had because they walked in poop/ate vegetables etc.

Excuse me as I throw up again and wash my hands.

Unknown said...

I have your blog in my blogroll, and the title of this one caught my attention! I'm actually glad that it's middle reader - now I know what my son will be reading next month!

I've often wondered WHY all families (before the 20th cent.)with any means had servants. The woman of the house wasn't working in the 19th century, so why did she need a maid? Now I get it! If I had any means back then, I'd give up sugar to have someone else clean out my chamber pot. ew.

I'll be joining you in that hand washing now.

Liz B said...

Allison, the true housekeeping of the good old days. Shiver. At one point I was on a kick of reading journals/diaries of women from the 19th/20th century and the casual mention of rats in the pantry? EEK.