cover image POOP: A Natural History of the Unmentionable

POOP: A Natural History of the Unmentionable

Nicola Davies, , illus. by Neal Layton. . Candlewick, $12.99 (61pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-2437-8

Insects don't urinate, but they do produce "frass." Otters elude human observers, but trackers study them by "their droppings, or spraints." "There are as many good stories about poop as there are kinds of animals," writes zoology buff Davies (Bat Loves the Night ), and this informative book conveys that variety and boosts the vocabulary too. The author names the ingredients in birds' two-tone whitewash, explores the tangible qualities of cow dung and tells why peccaries (wild pigs) favor group "latrines." Resourceful termites cultivate mushrooms on their waste, and blue whales, after eating pink shrimp, "do huge pink poop that looks like giant blobs of strawberry ice cream breaking up in the water." (Ice cream lovers may opt for vanilla after this.) Davies lingers on the principle that "one animal's poop is another animal's lunch," and connects this to the circle of life: "Nature has been recycling for billions of years." Unfortunately, the best surprises get buried in the blocky, squeezed paragraph design and unemphasized gray type. Next to the matter-of-fact narration, Layton's (The Sunday Blues ) slapdash cartoons mine the scatological humor of the subject. His scribbly line, soggy brown palette and messy handwriting aptly suggest the macho abandon of male hippos who like "spraying their poop... in all directions." This naturalist account complements Susan Goodman's The Truth About Poop (reviewed June 7), which offers fecal facts from human history. Ages 8-up. (Sept.)