Like her two shelter cats, Susan Goodman seems to have nine lives. She is, or has been, a social worker, chef, college professor, teen counselor, mother to two now-grown boys, magazine writer and adventure-seeking author.
Her two dozen children's books include true stories about brave kids, how plants and animals adapt, and unusual field trips. She has explored the rain forest, moonwalked at space camp, been to a buffalo roundup, slept underwater and -- for her next book -- stood on a steel beam 500 feet above New York City to watch a skyscraper being built.
Goodman recently talked with Marylou Tousignant about her latest, somewhat less lofty book, "The Truth About Poop." It's a delightful collection of facts, oddities and funny drawings you'll want to share with everyone. But please, not at the dinner table!
What inspired you to write about poop?
I was on a school visit, talking about the Amazon rain forest and sloths, and I threw in one of my favorite sloth facts: They poop only about once a week. The kids laughed and I moved on. Afterwards, the principal came up and said, "Oh, Mrs. Goodman, that was a wonderful presentation, but for the 10:30 [talk], drop the sloth fact." The grown-up in me thought, Now isn't that silly we have this taboo? And the 6-year-old in me thought, Oh yeah? Well, poop, poop, poop, poop, POOP! And that's how it started.
How did people react when you told them what you were working on?
Sometimes they were embarrassed, but the year I was researching and writing this book I was the most popular person at a dinner party because I had great stories. Hearing about how astronauts poop in space, it's pretty interesting. And kids just love it. One of the most fun experiences for me was being in a bookstore just looking around, and I heard these kids giggling like crazy. I looked over and they were reading this book. And it made me sooooo happy. . . . I also know they're reading something that's teaching them something.
Do you have a favorite poop fact?
I was totally amazed that they had this survey that asked people what they'd want to have if stranded on an island, and almost half picked toilet paper over food. I was like, how stupid are those people? Will they even poop if they don't have food? Can't they use leaves?
I know there was an incident in school that challenged you as a writer. Tell us about it.
In 12th grade I had a new English teacher and I handed in a paper about Hamlet. I was used to getting good grades, but when I got this paper back I got a D-minus. And I had never gotten a D-minus before. So I went up and asked about it and she said, "Well, it's a D-minus paper. You're not really thinking. But if you want an A, I'll teach you how to think. I'll let you write the paper over again and again and again until it's good enough." [Which Goodman did.] This teacher taught me two things: One, you gotta think. And two, you have to have something to say.
What's the most fun you've had as an author?
I've been able to ride in a search-and-rescue helicopter, to paddle down the Amazon, to visit scientists near the North Pole. Talking to people who are so excited about what they do is the most fun. Going to space camp and using the trainers that real astronauts used . . . to walk on the moon -- then I say, what a cool job!
at sea? Keep your poop to yourself. Sharks can smell it
a mile away.