The Blog of Toledo Lucas County Public Library
The History of Poop in Children's Literature
It is a well-known narratological truism going back as far as Aristotle that there are three broad categories of children’s stories: stories about growing up; stories about conquering fears; and stories about poop. The third category is, of course, the most popular.
Mastering the human chore of going to the bathroom is a big part of childhood development, and is also greatly valued among preschool teachers. So it’s not surprising that there are a lot of books for kids aimed at helping them past that milestone. These are undeniably useful parenting tools, but while some of them are very lively, occasionally others are about as entertaining to read as a car repair manual.
The fact is, though: life skills aside, kids often just enjoy the topic of poop. And poop books that are less tutorial in nature are more fun – for their target audience, at least, and occasionally even for the adults who are probably reading them aloud. My personal favorite is “The Story of the Little Mole Who Went in Search of Whodunit,” an irrepressible German story by Werner Holzwarth and Wolf Erlbruch that combines toilet humor with mystery elements and a revenge plot worthy of Inigo Montoya.
But few such books have achieved the enduring status of today's 101 Picture Books entry, Taro Gomi’s “Everyone Poops,” first published in Japan in 1977. Loose and plotless and discursive, emulating a child’s capacity for free-association, the book knows that many kids are fascinated with animals and their excretions and worried about their own toilet-related obligations, so it ambles from the first concern to the second, gently alleviating anxiety without being overtly belabored or didactic about it.
Not everyone appreciated “Everyone Poops” when it came out. The "Publishers Weekly" review lamented, “Okay, so everyone does it--does everyone have to talk about it?” But check out the peculiar delights of Gomi’s puckish illustrations – animals with enigmatic expressions, doing their business against saturated monochromatic backgrounds with terse sloganlike text, the deadpan arrangements landing somewhere between advertising and pop art. It’s worth your time even if you don’t have a child with you, though it may or may not be a title you’d like to be seen reading on the bus.
And there are plenty of other books on the subject – some informative, some just fun, many both.
Picture Books About Poop
And if these kinds of books just aren’t your thing – if you prefer your literary materials to be more elevated and substantive – don’t worry. There’s always pee and farts.
This blog post has been brought to you by the Society for the Defense of Dignity in Libraries.
"Everyone Poops" by Taro Gomi is just one of the great books on the 101 Picture Book Challenge list.
What is the 101 Picture Book Challenge?
The 101 Picture Book Challenge is for anyone at any age. Librarians hand picked the titles on the list which includes classics, new titles and everything in between.
To get started, register online. You can track your progress online or if you prefer a paper log booklet, pick one up at your neighborhood Library. The books are organized into categories but you can read the books in any order and at your own pace. When you read all 101 titles, you earn a free picture book (while supplies last).
This is the latest in a series of blog posts exploring some of the things we love about these books.