Just following through on that Scabs book, I looked at some more from the same series, and the publisher’s comment on Breasts is great:
In defense of poop (and breasts, and gas…)
We’ve received a lot of publicity over the years for our My Body Science series – some good (well, most good), some bad, some silly and some a little frightening. Titles like EVERYONE POOPS and THE GAS WE PASS have attracted the attentions of Rush Limbaugh, the New York Times, Playboy Magazine, and countless others. None of it though, has really addressed what we think of as the most important issue. These are books for children. It doesn’t matter if adults think a book about farts is gross, or if the cover of BREASTS makes them uncomfortable. These are basic science books for children and they give children information that they want and need in a way that they understand. We’re not crude. We’re not sensationalists. We are a child focused and child oriented publishing company. And the My Body Science titles are child centered and child oriented books.
Kane/Miller’s commitment to publish foreign children’s books is based on the belief that foreign children’s books display an other than American sensibility that in some ineffable way enriches a child’s reading and life experiences. We feel that all of our books are very special – totally accessible to young children in that they are entertaining, instructive, funny, and whimsical too.
So, when we found this wonderful series of science books from Japan, we didn’t even think about what the adult reaction would be. It didn’t occur to us that some stores would find the titles of the books offensive and not carry them. It didn’t occur to us that adults would buy them for each other, but not for their children. It didn’t occur to us that some children’s bookstores would refuse to carry them. It didn’t occur to us that we would get hate mail. It didn’t occur to us that reviewers
would call us prurient. We just knew that children need their questions answered in a way that they can understand. We knew that these books could do that. We did expect that Bill Gates would announce on the Rosie O’Donnell show that EVERYONE POOPS was his daughter’s favorite book. We did expect that Pediatric Gastro-enterologists would keep copies in their waiting rooms. We did expect that hospital gift shops would stock them and that day care centers would treasure them. We expected all that. We never expected we would have to defend them.
Yes, they are funny. Yes, they are silly. (They are also factual). They make kids laugh – good, honest, open laughter. “Here is a book” kids say, “that knows what’s what”. Studies show that laughter can reduce pain and stress, and stimulate mental functioning. A little honest open laughter is healthy. It’s necessary, and it’s comforting for kids to know that it is okay to laugh. Because while they are laughing they are also learning. (Although, truth be told, some kids don’t laugh. My two year old listens to EVERYONE POOPS- over and over and over again- with a very serious look on his face. He is very happy to hear that everyone poops. It’s comforting. It’s information he needs and information he understands).
We all need information, we all need to laugh. But we also need not to lose site of the fact that kids books are for kids. If a book is for a very young child then when we read it, we must try to remember what is important to very young children. A review of BREASTS in the library review journal KIRKUS suggests that instead of BREASTS, libraries stock a book called It’s Perfectly Normal. It’s Perfectly Normal is a perfectly wonderful book, but it is for much older children. BREASTS is for very young children. It is for the three year old with the new baby sister who watches her mom breastfeeding and wonders what is happening. It’s for the four year old who is just discovering her body and asks questions. It’s for the five year old who wants to know if she will look like Barbie when she grows up. BREASTS is for very young children. The My Body Science series is for very young children.
Children are curious. Children have questions. Children want their questions answered in a way that makes sense to them. The My Body Science series makes sense to them.