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Everyone's Buying 'Everyone Poops,' a Surprise Hot Seller

January 09, 1994|GREG JOHNSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

One of the hot-selling books regionally and across the country is about--well--poop.

"Everyone Poops" (Kane/Miller, $11.95), the work of Japanese author and illustrator Taro Gomi, has become an unexpected favorite among kids and adults alike.

"It shows people and animals, and everyone is doing basically the same thing," said Daria Dimitroff, a salesperson at Children's Book World in West Los Angeles. "It's not a title we'd normally suggest . . . but the book actually sells itself. We've got other books by Taro Gomi, but they don't sell nearly as well."

Kane/Miller Book Publishers, a small family-owned publisher with offices in La Jolla and New York, printed 20,000 copies of the 28-page illustrated book in October. The company rushed a second printing of 20,000 copies when the first sold out. A third printing of at least 40,000 copies will be completed this month.

Madeline Kane, Kane/Miller co-owner with her brother, Sandy Miller, is mystified by the book's popularity.

"We thought it would do pretty good," said Kane, whose firm specializes in children's books from other countries. "But it's been phenomenal for us. A good-selling book will do about 10,000 copies in a year, and this has sold 40,000 since October."

Although the book is intended for children of toilet-training age, it's also great for adults who have to answer those questions, said Karin Soderberg, a nurse with Kaiser Permanente in San Diego.

Soderberg bought one copy for two nephews who are toilet-training. Doctors and nurses at Kaiser's pediatric gastroenterology unit use a copy to help explain bowel movements and gastrointestinal ailments to children. Kane said the book is being used in nursery schools and to help children with learning disabilities to better understand their bodies.

The book has had other, unintended uses.

"It makes the kids who are getting chemotherapy treatment laugh because it's funny," Soderberg said. "It's also a great conversation piece. I had it in the elevator the other day, and three doctors who I don't even know were grabbing it to read."

Sales are "pretty much split between parents buying it for (toilet-training) kids and adults buying it for other adults," said Dave Valvoda, assistant manager of the Nature Company store in Century City. "People see it and say, 'This is so neat or cute.' I can't keep it in stock."

The politely illustrated book is "a beginning science book that really addresses the needs and interests of the very young child," Kane said.

Gomi specializes in children's books that have become known for their colorful and bold illustrations. Gomi's technique "is just perfect for this particular title," Kane said.

Although "Everyone Poops" is definitely a kids' book, it has also found an audience among adults. The San Francisco Chronicle's Herb Caen mentioned the book in a recent column. Alan Cheuse, a book reviewer in Washington, D.C., told National Public Radio's Noah Adams that the cover sells itself: "It's one of those titles that tells you everything you need to know about the book."

A Los Angeles Times review in June noted that "Taro Gomi's title says it all, and the illustrations show it. There's no puritanical, lips-pursed, grin-and-bear-it earnestness about the story."

A second title in a planned series on children and their bodies--"The Holes in Your Nose," by another Japanese author--will be published in March.

Kane was taken aback by adult interest in the book. "We knew we would do really well in the nursery school realm," Kane said. "But we were totally shocked at adults buying it for other adults . . . . I really don't know how to explain it. It's not normally something people would talk about." In the same vein, there's also "Nature Calls," a book of wildlife photographs by Mitsuaki Iwago, which includes a cautionary note that "the elimination habits of animals . . . may be offensive to some readers."

"It shows animals doing their thing," said Valvoda of the Nature Company. "At first we were really worried that people would complain. But I've been stunned. . . . I can't believe the number of people who've bought multiple copies of this thing."

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