Word Wednesday: Smells

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This Week’s Word Is “Smells.”

This week, I have two books about number twos. One of them, on the English cover at least, describes itself as “The No.2 Bestseller,” which is as an inventive a piece of advertising as I’ve seen in a while.

DK’s Poo! It Can’t Be TRUE! is out and out about poo, whereas You Smell, from Laurence King, takes in everything olfactory in one great guff-laden gasp. (You want definition 2 from that link, but if you grew up in Birmingham, UK, in the 80s, you know exactly what I mean).

What Is You Smell!? 

Subtitled, “And so does everything else,” You Smell! answers everything you could ever want to know about smells; how they’re made and how we detect them. The book is a slim hardback with a mixture of text and illustrations. You Smell! is aimed at children around 10 and upwards.

Disclosure: I have no sense of smell, and never have, so this entire book could be an elaborate fabrication made just to trick me into making a fool of myself, but for now, let’s assume it’s not! 

You Smell! is broken down into 4 sections:

All People Pong.

How smell works: This section opens with descriptions of areas of the body that smell and why they might do so. It also explains why my wife is always moaning about the smell of coins. I don’t come from a position of strength on this, (see above) but I’d always assumed she was overreacting. Turns out smelly coins is a thing. Who knew? Probably quite a lot of you, but it was news to me!

This section also contains the fascinating and slightly grim fact that your feet can produce up to two cups of sweat a day. There’s a detailed description of how your brain detects smells and the different types of molecules that produce certain types of smell. Next, You Smell! looks at positive smells and the power of smell memories. It also examines the link between smell and taste, which I personally find fascinating as I’m never quite sure what I’m missing out on.

This section closes out with a look at sweat, farts, and smelly feet, describing such marvels as rainbow sweat, the fact some people can tell what movie you have seen, by the way your sweat smells, and the truth behind “silent by deady.”

The Niff of Nature.

Smelly animals, smelly plants, and the use of scent as a marker are discussed in this section, as is the way scent and odor are used to defend an animal’s territory.

The Putrid Past.

History was a smelly place. Stinks and stench and how studying them made the world a better place. From the investigations of Hippocrates to Parisian stink maps, how smells have been used (and misused) throughout history.


Crazy smell inventions from synthetic snot to smellyvision. The invention of perfume is covered in this section, including some of the crazy things used in expensive perfumes. Planet Pong looks at places in the world that are renown for their stink, from Rotorua in New Zealand to garlic central, Gilroy, California. There’s even a little guide to teach you how to say “smelly” in 8 languages, though no real guide as to how to pronounce “śmierdzący.”

The book’s final pages reveal rather unexpected information about smells in space. (No, not bacon, Muppet fans.) The consensus seems to be that space smells pretty bad. I did not know that astronauts like hot chili nor that part of the Milky Way smells of raspberries.

The book closes out with a glossary of whiffy words and a stinky quiz.

Why Read You Smell!?

This is a great book to inspire kids to learn about the science of their bodies and the food that they eat, as well as some history too. The slightly disgusting nature of smell, means the book will appeal to children, because let’s be honest, there are few things more entertaining than farts.

The book is well laid out, with engaging text and lots of great facts about the faintly disgusting. In short, this book does exactly what it sets out to do and is not to be sniffed at.

If you’d like to pick up a copy of You Smell!, you can do so here, in the US and here, in the UK.


What is Poo!?

We’re all parents here, right? We’ve all dealt with poo, and if our children are old enough, we’ve all dealt with more poo jokes than we know what to do with. Poo! It Cannot Be TRUE! is a slender volume, that contains just about everything your little darlings could ever want to know about what is very probably their favorite subject. The book is a softback of 64 pages and is suitable for children aged around 7 upwards.

Starting with how is poo made (essentially, an overview of the alimentary canal) and evacuated (who knew the lungs, got involved?!) and what it’s made of (with comparisons to other animals) the book looks at just about every aspect of poo.

It answers such important questions as:

  • How many bacteria are there in one poo? The answer is mind-boggling.
  • How many poos will you do in a lifetime?
  • The total number of tonnes pooed in human history, also total area and length!
  • Which animal poos the most? (by volume and times a day).
  • Why are wombat poos square?
  • How far does your food travel through you?
  • Which poo stains can be seen from space?

Down the side of some passages are Fast Facts, which includes, the horrendous knowledge that 1 in 6 phone screens have poo bacteria on them. (Please, wipe before you swipe!)

From poo we move inevitably to wee, where we answer the same sort of questions. What is wee and how is it made? How much wee has been weed throughout human history. The book doesn’t attempt to answer the age-old question of why your children need the toilet immediately after passing the last rest stop.

If poo and wee weren’t engaging enough, why not look at gas? Fart-knowledge is power for the average 7-year-old.

With bodily functions accounted for, Poo! moves onto the domestic implications of human waste, with a description of the workings of, not just one, but 7 different toilets. If you weren’t grossed out enough already, then perhaps the pages on animals that eat their own poo might do it? If that doesn’t, the poo parasite page surely will.

Are poos useful? Of course they are. From gunpowder to civet coffee Poo! looks at the different ways poo is utilized. There’s even a double-page spread devoted to manure’s defensive capabilities.

If all that wasn’t enough, the index is written on toilet paper (sort of).


Why Read Poo!?

This book is just great. It is everything you’d expect from a DK book. Concise informative text, great photos, and diagrams, all laid out in an easy to read fashion.  There is a wealth of information here too. I’ve taken a cross-section of it for this review, but I could have chosen dozens of other snippets and they would have been just as interesting.

Poo is fascinating to children and this book will engage them in ways they had only begun to imagine. So give them some wellies and let them jump right in.

If you’d like to pick up a copy of Poo! you can do so here, in the US, and here, in the UK. Just make sure you wash your hands afterwards!

Both these books cover their topics brilliantly, which one you choose, might depend on what you’re after. Whilst You Smell! covers smells of all types, Poo! is much more specfic in its focus. I think this makes it a little more accessible than You Smell, but that may also be because its aimed at a slightly younger age group.

If you enjoyed this review, do check out my other Word Wednesday reviews.


Disclosure: I received copies of both books in order to write this review. 

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