No matter how much you eat for meals, no matter how stuffed you feel when you push yourself away from the table, you can never say “no” to dessert. Somehow, there’s always room for a cookie, a sliver of cake, a piece of candy, and where do you put all that food? Read “It Takes Guts” by Dr. Jennifer Gardy, illustrated by Belle Wuthrich and find out.

Maaan, you’re hungry!

That snack you want will sure taste good but before you take a bite, look inside your mouth. You see teeth and a tongue in there, but look again. There’s also saliva, “growth factor” and pain-killing molecules, enzymes, “300 different types” of bacteria, nerves, muscles, and taste buds. It’s a wonder there’s even room for food!

Now take a bite of that snack.

You don’t even have to think about when it’s time to swallow. Your body knows, just as it knows to send the food to your stomach... and if it accidentally goes “down the wrong tube,” your body makes you cough. Smart, eh? Peristalsis moves the food down your esophagus, which takes a little time before your chewed-up food hits your stomach.

Shaped like a bean, your stomach is also quite an interesting organ. It sorts what you swallow, allowing liquids to pass through while keeping solids around for awhile. Your stomach tells you when you’ve had enough to eat (save room for that cookie!), and perhaps hours later, it moves what you ate to the next step in digestion.

Once it leaves your stomach, your food (now called “chyme”) moves through the small intestines, although there’s really nothing small about them: the three parts – the duodenum, the jejunum, and the ileum – together are roughly three-and-a-half times longer than you are tall. Almost 90 percent of the nutrients your body uses come from the small intestines and then, after a run through the large intestines and millions of bacteria, water is mostly removed and everything that’s left is outta here.

Don’t forget to flush!

At some point in your parental life, you’ve probably noticed that bodily-process talk is a theme, and that misinformation is at its core. Argh, it’s time to set the facts straight, and “It Takes Guts” can help.

Perfect for a curious kid, this book doesn’t take the humor out of the situation; instead, it lets kids find out how truly cool it all is. Author Jennifer Gardy is a scientist and researcher – she gleefully tells tales of icky experiments – but despite the kid-ness of this information, it’s also real and easy-to-grasp. In addition, children will also learn what sword-swallowers taught scientists, why an injured fur trapper was a big help two hundred years ago, and how “smart toilets” can save lives.

The mixture of silly and serious will let an 8-to-12-year-old smartypants be an expert on an irresistible subject, and parents will love “It Takes Guts” for its informative fun. There’s always room for a book like this.

Terri Schlichenmeyer can be reached at

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