Chicoan Jan Condon is a semi-retired occupational therapist. Teaming with illustrator Chris Ficken, a designer at Chico State University, Condon turned her interest in wellness into an engaging children’s book that makes the mechanics of digestion easy to swallow.
“Stella’s Adventures In The Incredible BioTerrain” ($12 in paperback, self-published; available from Made In Chico, Rusty Wagon in Orland, Patrick’s Ranch in Durham, and janicecondon.com) begins with young Stella telling her mother she feels “kind of funny in the stomach,” maybe the result of anxiety over not yet having a school science project. Then she falls asleep, and that’s when the fun begins.
Stella dreams that “she just climbed into her mouth--and swallowed herself,” eventually landing in her stomach, only to be greeted by Emily Enzyme. “My job,” she tells Stella, “is to change food in your mouth to be more digestible.” There’s even a little song: “I’m a Fast Movin’ Mama and I get my kicks / Breaking food into Nutrients quicker than quick.”
On into the small intestine to meet Abby Acidophilus. “There are billions of us,” Abby says, “all sticking to the waving villa that are the little hills inside the intestinal wall.” Or, putting it another way: “I’m Abby Acidophilus digesting your food / We hula in the villi to make things good; / The more we are, the better for you and us, / We hula food down to Benny Bifidus.”
Benny, Abby says, “lives in the large intestine, or colon--that’s the last stop for your digested food before, well, before it hits the toilet. That’s why we call him The King of Poo.” (Cue Stella to put on rubber boots.)
Benny the bacteria and his “marvelous crew” wheelbarrow out the stinky stuff. Off to the side is Stanley the Stem Cell, on patrol. “Is anything wrong?? (I hope, I hope!)” “Gosh no, Stanley,” says Emily, “Stella swallowed herself to come down here to see what happens to the food she eats. We’re giving her the Grand Tour.”
When Stella wakes, she realizes her body “is a miraculous world. ... What a perfect science report for my class project.” And that’s the straight poop.