All the Dirt Share this with a friend

A History of Getting Clean

by Katherine Ashenburg
illustrated by Capucine Mazille

Best Books for Kids & Teens 2017, Canadian Children’s Book Centre Green Book Festival Award 2018 Red Cedar Non-fiction Award nomination Hackmatack Children’s Choice Book Awards nomination 2018 Rocky Mountain Book Award nomination Golden Oak Award nomination, Ontario Library Association

A real “stinker” of a book that takes a lighthearted look at the history of cleanliness.

Cleanliness is next to godliness. At least that was the point of view espoused by John Wesley in 18th century England. But accounts of people bathing go back to the Bronze Age in the Indus Valley.

All the Dirt is a lively, informative exploration of the evolution of personal hygiene. Starting with a number of myths about cleanliness, the author gives a quick overview of the topic. Throughout most of history, people rejected the notion of keeping clean, with some exceptions—the ancient Romans were obsessive about it. Readers will discover how the definition of cleanliness in one part of the world may differ radically from another. In Zimbabwe, for example, cleanliness means coating your washed body with a mixture of oil and dirt!

There is just enough of a gross factor that young readers will find the book as entertaining as it is enlightening. Colorful spreads, lots of sidebars, humorous illustrations, and photos make it ideal for browsing as well as reading in depth.


“With its lively writing and presentation, this informative book makes the history of cleanliness unexpectedly fun.”
—Booklist, 10/01/16

“A factual yet witty take on dirt and cleanliness. Highly recommended for school libraries.”
—School Library Journal, 10/16

“Ashenburg’s . . . prose is tight and fun, and she treats readers to accessible yet uncompromisingly smart language. The result is an exploration of the connections between culture, class, religion, power, geography, science, and technology as seen through their relation to cleanliness—all rendered in an engaging, age-appropriate way.”
—Quill & Quire, 11/16

“A recommended title that many students will read with pleasure. Teachers might also use parts in their science, history, social studies, or language arts classes. The final chapters provide useful media literacy information.”
—Resource Links, 02/17

“Compulsively readable . . . Well researched and clearly written.”
—National Reading Campaign, 11/16/16

“Even the most reluctant historians are sure to be delighted.”
—Foreword Reviews, Winter/16

“Author Katherine Ashenburg weaves together basic history, biology, philosophy, and chemistry in a cohesive and entertaining read.”
—CM Reviews, 01/27/17

“A lively, informative exploration.”
—Metroland Media, 10/26/16

“This fascinating read will be a welcome addition to any home, class or school library.”
—Canadian Children’s Book News, Winter/16

“Mesmerizing in its ability to hold readers attention from cover to cover.”
—Kid Lit Reviews, 11/05/16

“Accessible and most enjoyable.”
—Sal’s Fiction Addiction, 05/15/17