It’s always hard for me to find a nonfiction book that I like enough to booktalk, so when I do find one I tend to latch on to it and share it with lots of classes. Ick! Yuck! Eew! Our Gross American History is a great oversized book with lots of cool and gruesome pictures, so while I wrote this as a standard booktalk, you could also make it a “show and tell” booktalk by showing pictures from the book while you talk. If you’d like to find more books that can make history come alive for young readers, make sure you check out Lois Miner Huey’s website!
Let’s just imagine that you used a time machine to go back into early American history. Let’s say that you wanted to visit the 1600s, the 1700s, and the early 1800s. You’d definitely learn a lot about American history and the way that people lived back then. You’d ALSO learn that America was pretty gross … and that it smelled REALLY bad.
For example, when people had to go to the bathroom … well, there was no such thing as a bathroom, because they didn’t have indoor toilets. So instead they used chamber pots that they kept in their bedrooms. And when it was time to empty those chamber pots … that’s right … they threw the contents out the window! Which means that most of it landed in the street but some of it landed on the people walking below.
Also, there was no such thing as a refrigerator, so a lot of times food rotted and went bad. But you ate it anyway, because it was either that or go hungry.
There was no such thing as deodorant, so people smelled bad all the time. You could wear a lot of perfume to try to cover it up … but then you’d just smell like body odor plus perfume.
There are many more topics in this book that you can and should learn about. Just … not while you’re eating, or even THINKING about eating. You can learn all about such topics as smallpox, leeches, terrible teeth problems, and all kinds of tiny creatures that would just LOVE to live on you and in you in …
Ick! Yuck! Eew! Our Gross American History by Lois Miner Huey