Toilet: How It Works

with Sheila Kennan. illus. by David Macaulay. 32p. (My Readers Series). further reading. glossary. index. websites. Roaring Brook/David Macaulay Studio. 2013. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-1-59643-779-1; pap. $3.99. ISBN 978-1-59643-780-7. LC 2012947300.
RedReviewStarGr 2–5—A unique nonfiction offering that deals with human waste in a way that most other books have not. The topic of toilets could go in many directions, and this book addresses a number of them. Readers learn the biology of why people need to use a toilet, how it flushes, and where the waste ends up. Ever wonder how septic systems and sewers work? Look no further. Overall, this is an informative look at a technology that everyone uses and most people take for granted. At every step of the way, Macaulay's engaging ink and watercolor illustrations and cutaway diagrams help to explain the text. This is a challenging read full of sophisticated and specific vocabulary, yet it is one that inquisitive youngsters and science-oriented kids will be drawn to. A boon to those looking to beef up informational offerings to meet Common Core standards.—Trina Bolfing, Westbank Libraries, Austin, TX
In an engaging combination of text and illustration, David Macaulay provides an informative look at the complete process involved with this eponymous household fixture—from digestion and waste to sewers, septic tanks, and treatment plants. The conversational narrative includes humor while clearly portraying the facts: “With the push of a button or the press of a handle, the toilet sends waste on its way. Clever toilet.” Plentiful illustrations will appeal especially to visual learners and beginning readers as they decode the text. Human organs, which appear bodiless, floating in air, are particularly entertaining, while clearly labeled cross-section drawings elucidate the various systems.
Clear step-by-step directions and unobstructed diagrams and cross sections outline how waste is produced by the body, disposed of through the inner workings of a toilet, sent to either a septic tank or urban sewer system, and purified. But we’ve got more than poops and pipes in this beginning reader/early nonfiction chapter book. Macaulay’s humor is evident from the cover (tiny people starring up at a giant, well, throne, cordoned off by red velvet ropes) and continues on the first page. “Everybody knows what a toilet is for” is accompanied by pictures of a dog drinking from the potty, a goldfish on its way to the giant bowl in the sky, and a “spring garden” (flowers in an abandoned commode). With this attention-grabber, the extraneous whimsy ends, but the humor continues. A spigot placed at the end of a human bladder emphasizes that here is where the body empties liquid waste, and conversation balloons allow bacteria to crack jokes while on their way to septic tanks or sewage disposal systems. If diagrams are the language of science, then Macaulay reminds readers that while such language is precise, it can also be lively. A fascinating exploration of design, both human and mechanical. Appended with a glossary, index, and recommended further reading and websites. betty carter

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