A History of Toilet Paper: A Cover Reveal and Interview!
All right. We’re all friends here. You know me. You know my particular predilections. And if you’ve read this blog long enough then you probably have an inkling that when it comes to potty humor, that ain’t what I’m about. I get it. I respect the job that it has to do. I just don’t normally feel any particular inclination to indulge it. Well, today, I found a workaround. Potty humor? Meh. Potty history? Yes, please!
Today we are joined by Sophia Gholz. You may know her from such rarities as This Is Your World: The Story of Bob Ross and The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng. She has a penchant for telling stories that haven’t appeared on children’s shelves before and today’s book is no exception.
A History of Toilet Paper (And Other Potty Tools), illustrated by Xiana Teimoy, is the toilet tale that even Dav Pilkey would have to appreciate. Or, as the publisher describes it:
In the beginning, potty time meant the great outdoors . . .
People have been going potty since, well, since the beginning of people! Ever wonder what humans used before potties or paper? You might be surprised at the clever tools that humans came up with over the centuries. From the great outdoors to ceramic pots, bum brushes and bidets, prepare for an adventure as we explore the interesting and sometimes shocking history of human potty practices! Award-winning children’s author Sophia Gholz and illustrator Xiana Teimoy team up to put a humorous spin on the fun and fascinating facts surrounding the history of toilet paper (and other potty tools) in this hilarious and delightful book.
Folks, it is my distinct pleasure to introduce Sophia Gholz on the blog today:
Betsy Bird: Sophia! Thank you so much for joining me!
Sophia Gholz: Thanks for having me, Betsy. I’m so happy to be here with you and the Fuse #8 blog!
BB: Well, that’s mighty kind of you to say. Okay, so you’ve created a nice roster of picture book nonfiction, but this is the first time you’ve dealt with some of the more . . . bodily elements in your books. I’ve gotta ask, what’s the origin story behind this book?
SG: Thank you! I love nonfiction and have always been a huge history fan. But when I began writing years ago, I focused mostly on funny fictional picture books. I absolutely adore humor. I mean, who doesn’t love to laugh? These two worlds—humor and nonfiction—sort of collided for me in early 2020. As the world grew darker during the beginning of the pandemic, I began craving a humorous escape more and more each day. I needed something to laugh about. Anything. And then it happened. I recall standing in a grocery store staring at rows of empty shelves reserved for toilet paper, but when I turned around the tissue boxes were still fully stocked and untouched. As I grabbed a box of tissues, a miniature comedian character sort of popped up on my shoulder holding a mic and began a monologue about toilet paper. “Who needs toilet paper anyway?” Actually, now that I type that out, I’m thinking I should have taken it as a sign the pandemic was getting to me. In any case, I embraced it and kept the inner banter going. Before I knew it, I was diving into research. There were so many fun facts to discover! I think I had a working rough draft for this story within a matter of weeks. And the rest is, well, history!
BB: Now THAT is an origin story! Too few involve pandemic hoarding. So what are some of your favorite facts in the book? Were there any you discovered that made you think, “Oh, I have GOT to include that one”?
SG: Oh, I learned a ton while researching this book. There are a lot of *ahem* interesting historical facts about human hygiene and potty practices. People are just animals, after all. So, I’m sure you can imagine some of the wild topics I stumbled across. But I think what I found most fascinating about this subject wasn’t a particular gadget or moment. It was that the overall development of modern potty practices and hygiene spans the entire globe and thousands of years into our history. Like other inventions, toilet paper came about because people built off one another from generation to generation and nation to nation. In other words, it was a global team effort! It’s amazing to look at an object as seemingly simple as toilet paper and discover its long (and sometimes wacky) evolutionary process. Humans are such a fascinating species and what we’ve done throughout history is so fun to read and learn about. Even today potty practices and customs vary vastly around the world, and that is so cool!
BB: But is there anything you didn’t include because it was just too gross, or did it all go in there in the end?
SG: I did briefly debate about how much to include and what to hold back. In the end, I’d say it all went into the book. Kids are curious little creatures and brilliant critical thinkers. I don’t think they get enough credit sometimes. Kids don’t really need watered-down truths. Facts can be a playground and history is full of fascinating information. I didn’t want to edit this book into a more subjective storyline. Instead, I aimed to give kids the truth in a way I hoped they (and adults) might appreciate. So, it’s all in there!
BB: Let’s talk about Xiana Teimoy’s art. When you’re writing a book, do you ever envision what it will look like in the end? Was this how you pictured this book looking or was it all a complete surprise?
SG: I’ve always been a visual thinker, which is part of why I adore the picture book format. That said, as an author only (not an illustrator) I try to keep most of that to myself. That way the illustrator can develop their own unhindered vision. This book, however, was a little different. My wonderful editor, Julie Matysik, and I spoke about the direction and mood of the book during our first calls. When the creative director, Frances Soo Ping Chow, and Julie shared some of their initial ideas with me, it was awesome to discover that we were all on the same page from the start. The entire art team has been truly incredible every step of the way and I couldn’t be more grateful.
And Xiana, oh my word…where do I even begin? She’s so talented! I fell in love with how humorous and expressive her art was even before I saw the first layouts for this book. As I waited on pins and needles to see sketches, I’d hoped she’d bring that same energy to these pages, and I was not disappointed. I cry-laughed when I saw Xiana’s first sketches. Her characters are full of life and fantastically over-the-top. She brought so much to the pages of this book and I’m eager to share it with everyone. Get ready to giggle!
BB: Final question – What are you working on next?
SG: Oooh I have some fun projects in the works (both fiction and nonfiction). But that’s about all I can say for now…stay tuned! 🙂
Great gobs of thanks to Sophia for swinging by the blog today.
And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for . . .
A History of Toilet Paper (And Other Potty Tools) will be on shelves everywhere August 2nd.
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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