Cool history books offer lessons kids won't forget

These books offer history lessons you won't soon forget.
These books offer history lessons you won't soon forget. (Deb Lindsey For The Washington Post)
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

If you think that history is about memorizing dates, or battles or generals, think again.

KidsPost has discovered three rather out-of-the-ordinary history books.

In "Poop Happened! A History of the World From the Bottom Up," Sarah Albee details how people have been relieving themselves for thousands of years. When humans were nomadic, or moved around a lot, poop wasn't much of an issue. But once people stopped moving and started building villages, they had to figure out what to do with their poop.

The book is littered with facts that will make you giggle or maybe make you feel a little ill. Pooping was so important to the Romans that they had a god of dung and a goddess of sewers! And a cook in New York came to be known as "Typhoid Mary" because the germs on her hands gave several hundred people typhoid. (Ewwwwww!)

Plumbing, Albee says, is important to a successful civilization, and yet Alexander Cummings, the inventor of the modern flush toilet, is not exactly a household name. After reading this book, you will no doubt have a new appreciation for him.

According to Adrienne Sylver in "Hot Diggity Dog: The History of the Hot Dog," Americans eat 2 billion hot dogs every July! But hot dogs are not just an American food. The Romans started eating them thousands of years ago as a snack. Yum! Immigrants brought them to America in the 1860s because they were a cheap, fast food. At first, they ate them without buns, right off the grill. Ouch! Then a hot dog vendor joined forces with a baker, and the hot dog bun was born.

In the 1950s, the hot dog gained even more popularity, sold by baseball vendors and served as fast, easy dinners for moms to make at home. None of this explains why hot dogs, made of different types of meat smashed together, are so yummy. Is it the smeared ketchup? The grilled flavor? The baseball game you're watching as you eat one? Who knows. What we do know is that those Romans certainly were on to something!

President Harry S. Truman is credited with saying, "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog." That's funny since Truman was not an animal lover! But 32 presidents have heeded Truman's advice anyway. In "First Pet: The Presidents and Their Beloved Canines, Felines and Other Four-Legged Creatures Who Made Their Home at the White House," photos and fun facts tell the stories of love between presidents and their pets. For example, did you know that President George H.W. Bush's dog, Millie, wrote a best-selling book called, "Millie's Book: As Dictated to Barbara Bush"? The book also explains that President Franklin D. Roosevelt's dog, Fala, went everywhere with his master, including news conferences and a meeting with Russia's powerful leader Joseph Stalin! (We hope there were no accidents! What would that have done to U.S.-Russian relations?) Most recently, President Barack Obama is photographed with his dog, Bo. This fun book seems to prove that American presidents are no different from other pet lovers.

-- Moira E. McLaughlin

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