/ Maris Wicks / 5 am Tue, Oct 6 2015
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  • Where Does All That Mucus Come From?: Teaching Kids About How Their Bodies Work

    Where Does All That Mucus Come From?: Teaching Kids About How Their Bodies Work

    When I was a kid, I was terrified of farting in class.  At home, it was no big deal: it was a daily fart festival with my family. But at school? TOTAL FEAR OF FLATULENCE. But then it dawned on me: EVERYBODY FARTS. And that's one of the reasons why I've decided to write a graphic novel about how our bodies work. It's about all the stuff that goes on inside our bodies daily, or throughout our lives, and that this stuff - whether it's digestion, or respiration, or defecation - is necessary for us to live. And it gives you excellent come-back material if anyone teases you for farting in school!

    Farting aside, I was lucky to have a mom that taught me the bodily basics early on: drink water throughout the day, eat fresh things (she actually wouldn't let products with more than 5 ingredients enter the house), and get outside.

    You might be thinking, "All of those things are obvious," but the more I talked with adults about this book, the more I found that not everyone received that type of guidance when it came to self-care, health and nutrition (hence me feeling lucky).

    So, why is it important to talk to kids about how their bodies work? LOTS of reasons.  We live in a culture of "I'll take care of it when it breaks" where there seems to be less emphasis on preventative care and health education. Being comfortable in your own skin (as a kid and as an adult) is integral to keeping your body healthy and knowing when it might need some help from a doctor. Why is my stomach growling?  Do I poop too much? Is my nose supposed to make this much mucus? Parents are already dealing with these questions as they care for their kids; but transitioning kids to learning about their own bodies and how to care for themselves is an important part of being human.

    Getting kids familiar with their bodies and why their bodies do the things they do can help to prevent fear, shame, and embarrassment. When I was a kid, it wasn't just farting in public that I was scared of. Dentist's and doctor's visits (and shots!) were particularly anxiety-inducing (and sometimes still are, but I'm working on it), not to mention being sick (I can count on my hands how many times I've puked in my life). By explaining the how's, what's and why's, I hope to lessen some of the fear, anxiety and awkwardness (ahem, I'm looking at YOU, puberty) of being a human being.

    This knowledge of our bodies is even more critical as we're growing. I'm not going to lie: puberty was terrible time for me, and the sense of being completely betrayed and out-of-touch with my own body resulted in a lot of social anxiety and shame about my fleshy vessel. Add all that on to how bodies are portrayed in media and it was enough to make me want to drag my awkwardly-shaped, zit-covered teenage body into a cave and hibernate until my twenties. My personal strategy was to learn as much as humanly possible about why this was happening to me (and, albeit, every other teenager in the world) and that helped me to get through it, and to feel better about my body. Yay, empowerment through knowledge!

    I hope that my new graphic novel Human Body Theater will provide this type for resource for kids even younger, and help to start a positive body image and understanding of human biology earlier in life. The ability to take care of ourselves is not just a responsibility, it's a rite of passage (we celebrate achievements in potty training, but why stop there?); celebrating our marvelous meat-machines is something we could stand to do more of.

    A lot of information about health and nutrition is typically presented in a way that is sterile and distant from kids; I wanted to use a casual and humorous (humerus?) approach.  Even though many readers will have probably learned about the human body before, Human Body Theater aims to engage them in a new way.  I mean, I'm pretty sure no one has ever seen a chorus line of infectious diseases in a human body book before.  Here's hoping that a fishnet tights-wearing virus doing the can-can will help people remember a little something about their immune system.

    I know Human Body Theater is aimed at a younger audience, but I hope both younger and older readers will enjoy it. There's a lot of information in it to digest, but I'm sure anybody who farts will be able to stomach it. Oh yeah, did I mention that it's full of corny jokes and terrible puns? It is.

    Here's to loving all our fabulous fleshy meat-machines!

    I know I never answered the question in the title…where does all that mucus come from? Read Human Body Theater to find out!

    Human Body Theater [Maris Wicks/First Second]












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