I am a firm believer that there is a book that can address any issue, any concern, any dilemma. Books can show, books can teach and books can help kids to understand the way the world works. When I had my first child, I couldn't wait to buy Taro Gomi's essential Everyone Poops. While there isn't too much that needs to be learned about the subject, Artie Bennett's The Butt Book does do the service of showing kids that everyone has one, what the various names for it are and what it is good for. I know that this word is off limits in many home and considered crass by others, but in my house it is the most expedient way of getting to the bottom of the issue, no pun intended. And, knowing that this is a somewhat sensitive issue, I thought I'd give this book a test run before deciding wether or not to review it. Every Monday I volunteer in my son's kindergarten classroom. Besides the usual tasks, I have the pleasure of reading one or two books to the kids each week. I had the teacher, a 27 year veteran who has taught all grades, approve the book and then I read it to the kids.
It was great! I showed the kids the front and the back of the book and told them that we were going to read a book with a silly word in it. The The Butt Book rhymes and I have to say, Bennet does a fabulous job with the rhyme scheme and meter. He has said that his inspiration for this book was Dr Seuss's body books - The Foot Book, The Ear Book, The Eye Book, The Tooth Book - and his writing is definitely comparable to Seuss's rhymes. I read a few pages and, when we got to the couplets that read:
Some names for butts have foreign flair:
tuchas, keister, derriere!
In England where they call moms "mums,"
people call their buttocks "bums."
I discovered the perfect place to take a break from the book and talk to the kids about all the different names we use for this anatomical aspect. It was amazing how many different names there are.
They thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the book as well. The discourse on animal butts, the importance of human butts and a few other asides make for a fun read and a great story time. I had twenty little people, butts planted firmly on the floor, eyes on me with full attention for the time it took to read this book, and I can tell you, I usually lose the attention of one or two kids no matter what I am reading, but The Butt Book proved the exception!
Written by comedian, actor and writer Michael Ian Black and illustrated by a longtime favorite of mine, Kevin Hawkes (Weslandia, written by Paul Fleischman), Chicken Cheeks is really funny and fun. The text is simple, yet creative and alliterative and the illustrations tell most of the story. As the book begins, we see a bear on a step ladder staring up towards the top of a tree. The text begins with, "Duck tail," and we see a duck go up on top of the bear's head. On top of the duck comes "moose caboose," followed by "chicken cheeks," "penguin patootie," and "polar bear derriere." Hawkes' illustrations of the animals are both realistic and humorous and the bright color palette is appealing. The totem pole of animals continues until we reach the last one, "duck billed platypus, gluteus maximus," when we see that the bear is trying to reach a bee hive. "Bumblebee bum" leads to the toppling of the tower and a pile of disgruntled animals. The build up to the top, the suspense and the funny animal butt names make this a fabulous read out loud and a great companion to The Butt Book.
And, if you can spare three minutes of your day, there is a very funny video of the author reading his book...