Review of The Great Stink, by Colleen Paeff, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

The Great Stink

How Joseph Bazalgette Solved London’s Poop Pollution Problem

by Colleen Paeff
illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster), 2021. 40 pages.
Review written October 20, 2021, from a library book
Starred Review

As soon as I saw the cover of this book, I knew it will be an easy one to booktalk (if we get to go into schools again before summer).

It’s about the history of how humans dealt with poop – and all the people who died of cholera in London before they realized it’s actually not a good idea to let human waste get into drinking water.

The book takes on the man who was largely responsible for updating London’s sewers so the Thames no longer reeked of poop. Historically, there was a summer where the smell coming off the Thames was actually called “The Great Stink.”

The story is told with entertaining illustrations and enough disgusting facts to keep anyone’s attention.

Sadly, at the end of the book we learn there are still problems with poop pollution in many places all over the world – including the United States. Happily, after that spread, we get a spread with stories of communities doing something about the problem today. And then there’s plenty of helpful back matter, if readers want to know more.

An entertaining look at an important historical innovation.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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