From School Library Journal
Grade 4–8—This self-proclaimed "number one book on number two" takes readers inside the fascinating world of excrement, ranging across the historical spectrum from "Hellenic Hygiene" to "How Do Astronauts Use the Toilet in Space?" Albee's focus is not only on bodily functions, but also on the larger public-health challenges created by mass urbanization in the ancient and modern world as well as the ability of societies to deal with these problems, which provides readers with an excellent introduction to social history. With a focus on the Western world in general and England in particular, the author touches on an array of topics from diseases such as cholera and plague to the development of increased sanitation in large urban areas such as London. The exciting format is comprised of a two-color (pastel green and blue) layout with numerous illustrations and photos. Interesting sidebars describe occupations and "hygiene heroes" such as Edwin Chadwick and bathroom fashion. The fluid writing style that ensnares and holds readers' attention from beginning to end. By bringing history alive, this captivating work is without a doubt an essential purchase.—Brian Odom, Pelham Public Library, AL
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In an info-dump redolent with Gosh! Yuck! moments, Albee deposits a heaping history of human sanitation—or rather the lack thereof—and its effects. Developing the premise that three of the four means of spreading disease—air, water, touch, and insect bite—can be blamed on bad plumbing, she pumps out a steady stream of comments on the miasmic effects of urbanization, waste disposal, and the roles of (not) bathing in ancient Greece, Rome, medieval Europe (“The Age of Shovelry”), and the “Reeking Renaissance.” She then digs into the gradual adoption of better practices in the nineteenth century in response to recurrent epidemics of cholera and other horrors. The cartoon illustrations feature sludgy green highlights; frequent sidebars offer stomach-churning profiles of relevant “Icky Occupations”; and if systematic scholarship isn’t exactly her fecal—er, focal point (“Sorry about the Eurocentricity thing,” she burbles in the preface), she does close with generalized source notes. A good choice for readers who feel that Susan Goodman’s The Truth about Poop (2004) and Charise Mericle Harper’s Flush! The Scoop on Poop through the Ages (2007) haven’t quite squeezed the last drop out of the topic. Grades 4-6. --John Peters