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All the Dirt: A History of Getting Clean

post written by Emma Filbrun

All the Dirt: A History of Getting Clean by Katherine AshenburgTitle: All the Dirt: A History of Getting Clean
Author: Katherine Ashenburg
Major Themes: Cleanliness, Health, Science
Synopsis: In a quick trip through history and around the world, learn about customs and ideas of cleanliness.

All the Dirt is quite a different trip through world history. I never would have thought of this topic, but I found it very interesting. The story starts around 2000 BC, with the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, and quickly moves along to the Middle Ages. That was where I found it especially interesting. I read one story aloud to my daughter, about how the king of France, in 1610, was so horrified that one of his ministers took a bath that he cautioned him to stay home, in his robe and nightcap, for several days, to ensure he didn’t become sick from such a rash act as taking a bath. We were both laughing so hard over the story that a man who came to the door just then wanted to know what the joke was! Another memorable tidbit was that the reason the Aztecs burned incense before their Spanish conquerors was to block out the smell from their unwashed bodies.

I was intrigued by the development of ideas of cleanliness, and the role advertising has played in our perceptions of being clean. The last chapter brings balance to the whole discussion by relating how being ultra-clean can be unhealthy.

This would be a good science or health book for a preteen to read. Children who enjoy nonfiction will enjoy it, especially if they like topics that are slightly gross (read, boys!). Yes, a few chapters discuss bodily functions. It was not done offensively, more matter-of-factly.

I received a free ecopy of this book from NetGalley and chose to review it.

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