Rachel Poliquin’s latest nonfiction title, The Museum of Odd Body Leftovers: A Tour of Your Useless Parts, Flaws, and Other Weird Bits, is both accessible and enjoyable, with a playful writing style that introduces the topic of vestigial structures.
Vestigial features like the palmar reflex, the coccyx, and disappearing kidneys (everyone is born with two sets of kidneys – who knew?) are the human race’s degenerative traits and parts. Scientific exposition is delivered by two anthropomorphized cartoon characters: the enthusiastically nerdy Wisdom Tooth and the perpetually leaking Disappearing Kidney. Our bickering hosts lead readers through the museum’s exhibits and displays, introducing each in the style of a tour guide’s spiel. As Wisdom Tooth says at the beginning of his own exhibit, “Let me be frank: teeth are fascinating. They come in so many shapes and sizes. Big, sharp pointy ones. Flat grinders. Little nibbley ones. They are all so beautiful and strong, and they help every toothy animal bite and chew whatever it likes to eat.” On top of being charming, this breezy way of teaching big concepts won’t overwhelm kids as they learn. Presenting facts as if they are museum displays is unique and keeps the information coming at a brisk pace. Kids who struggle with science will be delighted with the museum that Poliquin has created, as there is no reliance on dry definitions or a matter-of-fact tone.
Clayton Hanmer relies solely on lavender, turquoise, red, orange, and beige for his colour palette, and the brightness of the illustrations makes for a lively and attention-grabbing book. Numerous suggestions for self-analysis are included in the “Love Your Leftovers” sidebars, such as detailing ways of making your skin break into goosebumps and timing how quickly wet fingers get pruney. These mini experiments provide readers with ways to observe how their bodies function. For instance, this reviewer discovered she is the proud owner of a palmaris longus – a small forearm muscle left over from when we were monkeys – which one in five people don’t have. Any school or public library nonfiction section would benefit from having this book in its collection, and it’s sure to become a favourite of kids and educators alike.