It Takes Guts, written by Dr. Jennifer Gardy, illustrated by Belle Wuthrich

It Takes Guts: How Your Body Turns Food into Fuel (and Poop)
written by Dr. Jennifer Gardy
illustrated by Belle Wuthrich
Greystone Kids, 2021
978-1-77164-501-0 (hc) $24.95
for Grades 5 to 9

Non-fiction | Science | Biology | Body Systems | Digestive System | Gut Microbiome | Humour

Dr. Gardy’s It Takes Guts gamely explains everything that happens in the “almost magical” human digestive system, from ingesting food to excreting waste. In fact, it goes a step further to explain how waste can be used as biofuel, compost, microbiome therapy to aid humans with digestive disorders and as a part of self-powered drinking water systems. Chapters are organized following the movement of food through the body: mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine, with additional chapters on barfs and burps and the intestinal microbiome.  

Full of fascinating, useful information, the book includes how to avoid ice cream headaches, an experiment to see if you are a “supertaster” (more sensitive to taste than the average person), cultural interpretations of burps, the history of how scientists discovered the way stomachs digest food, and why you salivate before you vomit. Far from simply converting food to energy and voiding waste, the digestive system also affects your mood, immunity, weight and stress levels and absorbs and creates vitamins.

Matching Dr. Gardy’s playful tone are Wuthrich’s colourful, cartoony line drawings of anthropomorphized bacteria, food and organs, which, along with a diverse cast of friendly humans, festoon every two pages in the book. A glossary and index with a helpful how-to-use explanation round out the guide.

It Takes Guts makes a fun bathroom read for preadolescents, is a great way to teach body systems in the classroom, and appeals to kids who enjoy trivia like how astronauts use the bathroom in space.   

Aliki Tryphonopoulos is the parent of a young reader and a former children’s librarian.

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It Takes Guts