In the 1990’s, I was in my college town of Lawrence, Kansas (home of the University of Kansas.) I entered a bookstore to look around. A picture book called “Everyone Poops” was on display. It surprised me (but in a pleasant way,) because I had never ever seen “poop” mentioned or illustrated in a picture book before. Wow!
“Everyone Poops” was/is a Japanese picture book for kids by the ultra-famous Taro Gomi (Gomi Taro in Japanese.This is more about his books.) When I arrived in Japan in 1995, I noticed that poop drawings were common here. My junior high students might doodle poop for fun (always in the shape of the top of a soft-serve ice cream cone) and poop was frequent in manga (Japanese comics.) Poop drawings were absolutely no big deal, although I hadn’t seen them at all in the U.S. (I think poop has recently reached America’s shores and the country is now excrement friendly in illustrations.)
When I was in the U.S. during the past summer, I saw the English version of Gomi’s “Everyone Poops” in a used book store and purchased it. I thought it would be perfect for my library volunteer activity of reading aloud to kids at my son’s former elementary school.
Once in Japan, I borrowed the same book in Japanese from our public library. I also prepared eight flashcards to teach words from the book. I thought certain words are very useful, but they won’t get taught in regular English classes that the students will attend. Yet, aren’t poop and flush useful words to know if one finds oneself constipated while travelling abroad?
I was slightly worried because this book is about poop… But not too worried because Japanese parents and teachers, etc. are much more open to these kinds of books than American parents and teachers.
Despite “Everyone Poops” being virtually the only Taro Gomi book that Americans know, this book isn’t especially famous among today’s Japanese children. A few of the kids I read to knew it, but not all. (It’s an old book.) Taro Gomi, on the other hand, is an author that all the kids recognize. He’s both prolific (tons of his books are not published in English) and extremely famous.
So basically, the book was a success. The English and Japanese are written at the level of a toddler’s understanding–which is about right for the elementary school students who don’t know any English at all. And isn’t it cute? And teaches a great lesson. 🙂