Editor’s note: This is the first of a series of reviews of books by authors scheduled to visit BookFestPa on July 14.
Artie Bennett is the author of two picture books young children likely will find screamingly funny. His rhyming books — you’ll note a common theme — are “The Butt Book” (illustrated in colorful scratchboard by Mike Lester) and “Poopendous” (illustrated in antic cartoons by Mike Moran).
Of the two, “Poopendous,” which offers “the inside scoop on every type and use of poop,” is the more gross but also the more informative. In fact, its narrator is Professor P. Poopdeck who, outfitted like a jungle explorer, is first shown exiting an outhouse and poop-orting (sorry) to offer the reader a tour of the wide world of, well, you get the idea:
“We’re exploring a substance that most have ignored,
An ickypoo subject folks don’t care to visit,
Quite putrid and shocking and horrid — or is it?”
The scoop on poop is interesting. For example, guano is an Incan word; termites use their own feces to make their mounds; critters that “feast on fruits help the plants to put down roots;” and bears mark their territory — guess how?
Kids may or may not care. What they’ll definitely go for is the gross stuff, like the blonde mom with shopping bags stepping on a dog’s mess, apes using their own digestive products as projectiles and souvenir earrings made of moose dung.
If you’re thinking, oh swell, just the kind of entertainment I want for my child — get over it. Young children, reeling from the rigors of potty training while also trying to sort out what’s OK to say in company, are the ideal audience for books highlighting the absurdity of bodily functions.
That’s the word from librarians interviewed by professor Ann Curry, of the University of Alberta, for her paper, “Bums, Poops and Pees: A Scholarly Examination of Why Children Love and Adults Censor the Scatological in Children’s Books.”
Curry’s paper, presented in May at a Canadian conference on the humanities, acknowledges some parents’ worry that books such as Bennett’s or the wildly popular “Walter, the Farting Dog” and “Captain Underpants” series may lead to unruly, anti-authoritarian behavior in their kids.
Librarians pooh-pooh this idea, arguing these books are a perfectly good gateway to all kinds of literature — especially for boys, who frequently are reluctant readers.
In Bennett’s “The Butt Book,” it’s a boy with curly red hair and a striped shirt taking us on a tour of butts — mummy butts, mommy butts and everything in between. Like “Poopendous,“ “The Butt Book” celebrates the underappreciated with appealing rhythm and rhyme:
“Without your butt, you’re incomplete,
You could not use a toilet seat.
Without your butt you could not ride
Your shiny brand new bike outside.”
Bennett is the executive copy editor for a children’s book publisher as well as a writer. His facility with language was revealed early: As a teenager, he became the youngest person ever to sell a crossword puzzle to The New York Times. He will speak to families at Schlow Centre Region Library at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. July 14 as part of the annual BookFestPA celebration of the written word. The Brooklyn-based author will sign books after each appearance.
Martha Freeman is the best-selling children’s author of “The Year My Parents Ruined My Life” and “Fourth Grade Weirdo” among others.
BookFestPA will feature a visit and book-signing by children’s author Artie Bennett at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., July 14 at the community room at Schlow Centre Region Library, 211 S. Allen St., State College. Visit www. schlowlibrary.com for more information.