THE F**T WORD AND OTHER GROSS STUFF

Some years ago, when Bear (17) and Monkey (15) were in primary school, I was asked to read a story to a group of students as part of Children’s Book Week. “Bring any book you like,” I was told, so after much dithering I chose to go for laughs. I dug out two nice little books of the boys’ favourites – Dr Dog by Babette Cole and Walter the Farting* Dog by William Kotzwinkle and Glenn Murray. Was I taking a risk, bringing a book to a Christian primary school with the fart* word in it? I hoped not.

The children loved Dr Dog. He is the Gumboyle’s family pet and their trusted physician. When everyone comes down with a variety of ailments, he’s the one they call. Nits, worms and a shocking case of gas (too much baked beans and beer) – Dr Dog has a cure for all these nasty problems. They were in fits when Granddad farted* so hard that he went through the roof. Good choice, I congratulated myself.

It was when I started reading Walter the Farting* Dog that I started to have second thoughts. Not because of the children – anything with the fart* word is hilarious at that age. No, it was because one of the school board members walked in, smiled and sat down to listen. I thought a naughty word, but managed to smile back. As the kids rolled around with laughter and Walter’s smelly farts* scared away a burglar, I kept stealing glances at the woman up the back, who was hanging around like a bad smell. She gave no clue as to what she was thinking, so I carried on, hoping she wouldn’t make too much of a stink later.

“Have you got a minute?” she said when I prepared to leave.

My heart sank. It seemed the stink was unavoidable.

“That was fantastic,” she exclaimed. What?

“I love stories like that for children. Back in Canada, we had this book called Good Families Don’t,” she continued.

“Good families don’t what?” I asked.

“Fart!” She laughed. (It’s funny how that word does that …)

She went on to explain that whenever someone in her house was gassy, the running joke was “It wasn’t me, because good families don’t fart*”. I felt much better and resolved to use that one if needed. Not that I ever would.

Back then, these kinds of books were a bit unusual. Almost naughty, if you like. I know I got a shock when I saw the picture of worms on Baby Gumboyle’s bottom. Except the book said bum**. Yep. It did. These days, though, the library is full of, shall I say, interesting books for young children. No one is shy about discussing bodily functions anymore, it seems. Here are a few I found in the pre-school section:

  • Zoo Poo by Richard Morgan
  • Time to Pee by Mo Willems.
  • Sing a Song of Bottoms by Jeanne Willis
  • Big Boys go Potty by Marianne Richmond

As it turns out, that was tame stuff. A Google search of “books for preschooler about poo” reveals a swag of sites like Ten Children’s Books About Poop and Poop Books for Children. Okay. Interesting. I hesitated before the next search: boogers. And came up with The Booger Book: Pick it, Lick it, Roll it, Flick it! and Popular Booger Book Books. Lovely. There’s also a book called the Life of Pee (it’s true, look it up) another called Snot Stew and one called The Pukey Book of Vomit.

What do you think? Has it gone too far? What’s the funniest children’s book title you’ve seen or read to your children? The worst?

*As a child, I never said the word fart. It was very naughty. We said poopse, fluff and pop off. I was in my 20’s before I said fart.

**As a child, I never said the word bum. It was very, very naughty. My sister loved to say that word whenever Mum wasn’t listening. “Bum, bum, bum,” she would chant, to my horror. I was such a goody two-shoes.