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Monday, May 15, 2017

All The Dirt: A History of Getting Clean. By Katherine Ashenburg. Annick Press, 2016. $14.95 ages 10 and up

"For most of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, natural was the last thing the lords and ladies at the French court wanted to be. They covered their hair with wigs that were sometimes a foot high and hid their skin under oils, rouge, and powder. They wore unwashable brocades (rich silks with raised patterns), velvets, and satins that had permanent sweat stains ..."

Annick Press does such a terrific job of publishing nonfiction that pulls readers in, and gives them information that they didn't know they wanted to know. This book is presented in nine chapters with appealing illustrations and plenty of 'yuk' moments. That's when kids are bound to share what they are reading in order to see the reaction of their friends.

It begins with Eight Myths About Being Clean, and holds some surprises for readers. The most intriguing to me is #7:

"Keeping your body clean is healthy.

Not so. Only one simple cleaning
practice is important for your health.
And you're going to have to read to the
end of this book to find out what it is."

I know you will be tempted to page ahead and discover the answer right now. But if you do that, you will miss out on a lot of fun and many fascinating facts shared. Try to dampen down your curiosity.
You won't be sorry!

Reaching back into history, the author provides her audience with a chronological view of past centuries, beginning each new chapter with a story about a child of the time meant to connect them with the experiences of modern readers. Many influences are presented ... religion, setting, class, progressive (or not) thinking, and even advertising. Bringing it to present day, Ms. Ashenburg offers a look at our obsession for using antibacterial products at every turn.

The sidebars add important, and often entertaining, facts and encourage further interest. Accessible and most enjoyable, this is a book that will encourage some readers to do their own research to see what else they might discover.

"The History of Cold Bathing (1701) claimed that cold water
could cure just about any disease, and even turn losers into
winners. One of its authors, Edward Baynard, noted something
you might want to try: after two boys ran a race, if the loser was
dipped in cold water and the boys ran the race again, the loser
always won."

Hmmm! Worth some research, don't you think? One lesson I learned is that some of the dope on cleanliness needs 'cleaning up!'. Here's the book to get it started. Oh, and the answer to Myth #7?
I won't reveal that secret. I will give you a hint. Do you have 20 seconds?

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