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UNDERWEAR by Ruth Freeman Swain


What We Wear Under There

by Ruth Freeman Swain & illustrated by John O’Brien

Age Range: 7 - 9

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-8234-1920-3
Publisher: Holiday House

Swain doesn’t really delve into her topic, but does provide a snappy general overview that is animated by O’Brien’s big, tongue-in-cheek cartoon illustrations. Opening with the rhetorical question “What is so funny about underwear?” she covers the subject chronologically, tracing the evolution of ancient breechclouts to modern disposable diapers, glancing at futuristic deodorizing fabrics, surveying ways that used undies are recycled, then closing with a timeline and a short list of “inside information” sources. The breezy text receives appropriately playful accompaniment from illustrations that depict women drifting from balconies to the floor, supported by parachute-like hoops, and union-suit–clad skaters on a frozen pond. The sense of fun, however, perhaps precludes an accurate rendition of the torture of corsets, indicated in the text but not reinforced by the images. Readers after a little more specific detail will find Kathy Shaskan’s How Underwear Got Under There: A Brief History (2007), illustrated by Regan Dunnick, a better fit—though Deborah Nourse Lattimore’s more-or-less work-safe pop-up, I Wonder What’s Under There? (1998) uncovers the basics better than any. (Informational picture book. 7-9)