How do astronauts poop and pee? According to Dave Williams, a Canadian physician who flew on two Space Shuttle missions and made three spacewalks from the International Space Station, that’s the question people most often ask astronauts. In To Burp or Not to Burp: A Guide to Your Body in Space, he and coauthor Loredana Cunti provide the answer. Suction is key.
Illustrated with playful cartoons and photos from the space station, To Burp focuses on bodily functions in weightlessness. In one- and two-paragraph boxes, the book concisely addresses issues such as showering, brushing your teeth, and burping in space (don’t try because you might vomit). It should appeal to children ranging from later elementary school through early middle school.
Most admirably, Williams and Cunti speak to their young readers with respect and candor, avoiding cutesy euphemism. “Farting is a fact of life,” they write, “so if you’ve really got to do it on board, just be sure to hang out by one of the filters so the fan can deal with it.”
Instead of moving from topic to topic, Williams and Cunti might have spun a narrative thread by, say, walking the reader through a day on the space station. And they might have begun the book by describing Williams’s space experience instead of relegating that information to the back cover. Such quibbles aside, any child who has mused about being an astronaut should enjoy this book. How cool is it that in space you’re supposed to pick your nose?