Fart Happens: A Selected Review of the Literature of Farting
Most children think farts are hilarious, and so do some adults. Children's books are their meeting ground. While authors may use the subject for laughs, some have used it to teach about bodily functions, or the value of tolerating others despite their flaws. The ones I like the best are those that are subversive -- they feature children who fart out of sheer mischief, or who point out the hypocrisy of adults who frown on farting, but are practitioners of the fart themselves. Illustrated books, which many children's books are, present a particular challenge. How does one depict a fart? As you will see in the following examples, some illustrators handle it better than others, yet it's always entertaining to see them try.
Walter the Farting Dog
This is a story of two kids, Betty and Billy, who love their dog Walter
so unconditionally that they can overlook his chronic flatulence problem.
Their parents, however, are not quite as tolerant. After taking the
dog to the veterinarian, they try all kinds of special foods to curtail
the farting, but nothing works. The dramatic peak of the narrative is
achieved when Walter runs off two burglars by using his special skill.
This book, for very young children, is quite charming. Terry the elephant farts uncontrollably. The delicate lines from the her posterior and the puffy clouds that surround her indicate the extent of the problem, not to mention the shocked expressions on the faces of the pig, the monkey, the cow, the cat, and so on. Terry the elephant is banished to the woods for her transgressions. Her animal friends soon miss her, and ask her back. During the celebration of her return, Terry uses her gas to inflate party balloons.
Good Families Don't
In this story from Canada, the fart is personified as a large green monster with a purple walrus moustache. Little Carmen goes to bed and finds one lying there. Her parents don't believe that there's a fart in her bedroom because, as they put it, "Good families like ours do not have farts." Eventually, the fart entraps both her parents, and Carmen has to call the police for help. They are skeptical at first, saying, "Good Canadians do not have farts. What would the Americans say?" The resolution of this story involves Carmen's parents acknowledging the truth that everyone farts, even in good families.
Here's a history lesson that kids will not soon forget. There really was a man in 19th century France who entertained at the Moulin Rouge with a musical farting act. Joseph Pujol called himself "Le Petomane," which loosely translates as "Fart Mania." The story is loosely told in rhyme, but there's an epilog in prose that explains the basis of the story. It's much more entertaining than the biography of Le Petomane for adults that I review in the biography section, and the illustrations are terrific.
Someone must have figured, "What could be more funny than a farting Santa Claus?" In this case, answer is: plenty. This picture book aims to parody The Night Before Christmas, and it really misses the mark. The rhyme is so haphazard and contrived that it sounds like two guys made it up after a beer pong session. ("So they tried giving him Mylanta, Rolaids, and Maalox; then even taping a pillow to his buttocks!" I wonder if they got anything for the product placement.) Not only was the plot rather improbable, but they got the science wrong as well. A plate of franks and beans wouldn't result in a bad case of farts for hours after they were eaten.
Pee-ew! Is That You, Bertie?
Bertie looks all of two and a half years old, and he loves to make smells. He knows that all the adults do it, but cover they usually it up with a cough, or pretend it was someone else. Bertie is proud of his ability, as only a two-year-old can be. The illustrations are great. I especially love the one of the family hound dog, standing with one paw on a whoopee cushion and a pair of underpants on his head. If I had a kid, I'd read this book to her every night, to encourage her to embrace whatever special abilities she might have.
Smart kids who enjoy this book might be on their way to a career that puts them in contact with gross things. Hey, somebody's got to be a septic tank repairman, a proctologist, or a politician (just kidding about that last one). There's only one chapter on farting, but like the rest of the book, it's filled with scientific facts and hilarious illustrations. There's even a list of foreign words for the fart: in French it's "le pet" and in Chinese, it's "fang pi."
|Copyright © 2000-2010, Julie Mangin. All Rights Reserved.||April 2, 2016|