Christine Van Zandt: What's Behind Today's Underpants

Christine Van Zandt

While I was contemplating nonfiction topics that would engage kids, my (then) third-grader suggested underwear. Yes! I love hearing children laugh when they read, and there aren't many topics funnier than underpants. Once I began researching what had already been published, I felt there was a need for a concise, quick-paced book that could be amusing and informative. I charged forward like a knight in quilted underpants and wrote the first draft.

Scientists discover evidence of old undies the same way they dig up dinosaur fossils, so new finds are unearthed all the time. I searched for information from every continent, back to the earliest known undergarments. Yet many reference sources contained very little underwear-specific information--could that be why they're called "unmentionables"?

I uncovered cheeky facts and got hooked reading about things like frozen 5,300-year-old underwear, interesting materials and textiles that have covered our bottoms, and how inventions propelled underwear and clothing production forward. I believe that the combination of facts and humor makes this brief history accessible to all readers, even reluctant ones. Facts--like astronauts' dirty underpants are sent back to Earth on a crew-less ship and burn up on reentry--are out of this world.

Once young readers finish giggling at the puns about buns, the conversations begin. Children can visit my website for "Beyond the Book" questions: How can we study history if it keeps changing? Are today's underpants better for us? Are they better for our planet? The bottom line is that people throughout time have devised innovative solutions to keep their cheeks covered. --Christine Van Zandt

Christine Van Zandt is a literary editor and author of A Brief History of Underpants (becker&mayer! kids, $9.99), illustrated by Harry Briggs.

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