Monday, October 7, 2013

Ick! Yuck! Eew! Our Gross American History - a review

Huey, Lois Miner. 2014. Ick! Yuck! Eew! Our Gross American History. Minneapolis, MN: Millbrook.

Imagine that you have the ability to travel  to America, circa 1770.  You'll be able to blend in and talk with people who will have no idea that you have traveled back in time.  That's the fun premise of Ick! Yuck! Eew! Our Gross American History, just the kind of book that I love -- one that brings history alive as no textbook can do.

From "The Awful Smells,"

Your nose runs as you approach the people in a room.  When a woman smiles at you, you see she's missing several teeth.  Her breath is horrid.  You can't escape it.  Almost everyone in the room has bad breath from rotting teeth.  Plus, both men and women smoke white clay pipes.  So their breath (and clothes and hair) also smells of strong tobacco.  People aren't completely unaware of the smells. They know they have bad breath.  Women try to hide it by chewing cinnamon, cloves, orange peel, and honey melted in ashes.  Men don't bother.  Women mostly wave fans to keep the smell away and to cover their own black smiles. 
 As a traveler from the future, you'll visit a cobbler's shop (also full of stomach-churning smells), a tavern complete with bedbugs and rotting food, a barbershop (where people go to have their rotting teeth ripped from their jaws), and the homes and wardrobes of wealthy, poor and working class Americans.

Colorful inset boxes offer facts about smallpox, bathing habits, and other public health issues of the time. Period illustrations, photographed realia, and other buggy and bloody spot illustrations, add interest and break up the small text.

An introduction, "The Yucky Past," and four chapters, "The Awful Smells," "The Creepy-Crawly Bugs," "The Nasty Germs," and "The Uncomfortable Fashions," are followed by an Author's Note, Glossary, Source Notes, Selected Bibliography, Further Reading, Places to Visit and Index.

The author's note is well worth reading, and finishes with,

I don't think we should feel superior to the people of the past. They knew of nothing better than the conditions in which they lived. Despite all the hardships they faced, they worked hard, raised their children, and made the best of what they had.

A well-done look at our nation's earliest days.  How will we be viewed by citizens from the centuries to come?

You're in the right place!  Nonfiction Monday is here today. 
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  • Brick by Brick is the nonfiction picture book selection of Jeanne at True Tales and a Cherry on Top this week.  It is the story of the construction of the White House, created by many workers, including slaves who endured horrible working conditions.

  • Eggs 1, 2, 3: Who Will the Babies Be? is today's offering from Jen at Perogies and Gyoza. Eggs ... is one of last year's Cybils' finalists and Jen declares it "an adorable book on numbers and eggs for preschoolers." She also reminds us to nominate our favorites for consideration in this year's Cybils voting!

 I'll be working all day, and will update the post with your links later in the day.


  1. Thanks for hosting Nonfiction Monday this week.

  2. Any book with the words ICK! YUK! and EWW! will definitely attract readers. I liked the excerpt about smells -- great way to pull children into history.

    Thanks for hosting Nonfiction Monday today!

  3. Thanks for hosting this week! Buggy and bloody illustrations sounds right up my son's alley!

  4. Thanks for hosting! At Sonderbooks, I'm reviewing Revolutionary Friends, by Selene Castrovilla & Drazen Kozjan.

  5. Thanks, everyone, for your contributions to today's roundup. Sorry, it took me so long, but I was working all day.


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