Cheeky Reading About Backsides

Alison Morris - February 23, 2009

Butts, behinds, rear ends, tushies. Call ’em what you will, they’re making quite a number of appearances in picture books this year. I’m nearing the end of the buying season for this year’s Spring/Summer lists, and I’ve seen four books so far that focus on this very subject.

Of course, these are not the first four picture books to feature backsides (as any child familiar with No, David! can tell you). But I can’t remember seeing this many books about butts in any one previous season, let alone year. In fact, had 2009 not already been coined The Year of the Ox, I might be tempted to call this The Year of the Butt. (But mostly because the idea of that makes me chuckle.)

Chicken Cheeks 
written by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
(Simon & Schuster, January 2009)
First up is Chicken Cheeks. When a bear is unable to reach the honey he’s after, he enlists the help of some animal friends who climb atop one another to form a tall stack of what? Animal butts. Here each rear is given a rhyming or alliterative moniker like "moose caboose" and "penguin patootie" and "kangaroo keister". With very few words this book will garner a great numbers of giggles.

Always Lots of Heinies at the Zoo
written by Ayun Halliday, illustrated by Dan Santat
(Disney-Hyperion, May 2009)
Strikingly similar to Chicken Cheeks (and just as silly) is this offering, from first-time author Ayun Halliday, in which animals’ backsides are described in entertaining rhymes. ("From the feathered booty of the cockatoo To the hairy haunches of the caribou…") Here we learn one of the primary differences between humans and animals: animals are allowed to show their bare heinies in public.

The Tushy Book 
written by Fran Manushkin, illustrated by Tracy Dockray
(Feiwel & Friends, March 2009)
The least zany and most cutesy of the books in this bunch, The Tushy Book is also the only one that isn’t primarily about the butts of animals. Focused mostly on humans instead, this book explains some of the reasons why you should be glad to have backside behind you. (Imagine having no tushy on which to sit and have books read to you?)

Chicken Butt!
written by Erica Perl, illustrated by Henry Cole
(Abrams, March 2009)
And now we’ve come full circle (heh, heh), because the title of this book sounds a lot like Chicken Cheeks, does it not? While it features fewer butts than the others mentioned here, I think Chicken Butt! might be the one that’ll generate the most guffaws from youngsters, because it features the dumbest, most nonsensical reply anyone ever coined to a question. What? CHICKEN BUTT! Why? CHICKEN THIGH! While some adults might frown on this invitation to sass one’s grown-ups, I for one find this book to be a delightful celebration of what seems to have become a juvenile right of passage — one that some of us never outgrow.

To quote from the final pages of Chicken Cheeks, "THE ENDS."

5 thoughts on “Cheeky Reading About Backsides

  1. Erica Perl

    I am delighted to have my book bring up the rear (as it were) in this round-up! One addendum for you… Ayun Halliday may be a first-time children’s book author BUT she’s an accomplished grown-up book author. I loved her book THE BIG RUMPUS, which is about trying to remain East-Village-cool with two messy toddlers in tow.

  2. Ayun Halliday

    I’ve never felt so in step with the times! Looking at the pub dates, I see that Dan’s and my Heinies will be bringing up the other rear, so here’s hoping the public won’t weary of the subject before they’ve got the complete set of all books listed above. And thanky kindly for your kind words, Erica!


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