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It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health (The Family Library) Paperback – August 8, 2014
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From the Publisher
For ages 4-8
"An excellent introduction to babies’ origins for youngest curious minds." - PW
It’s Not the Stork! A Book about Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families, and Friends answers those endless and perfectly normal questions that preschool, kindergarten, and early-elementary-school children ask about how they began, as well as what’s the same about girls’ and boys’ bodies and what’s different.
For ages 7-10
"This thoughtful, innovative, and comprehensive book helps children with issues that are on their minds anyway - and gives all of us the language we need to share with them."
— T. Berry Brazelton, MD, founder of Brazelton Touchpoints Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, and Joshua Sparrow, MD, co-authors of Touchpoints: Birth to Three and Touchpoints: Three to Six.
Robie Harris's Let’s Talk About YOU and ME series is perfect for preschoolers.
Robie H. Harris follows the stages of pregnancy and childbirth in a matter-of-fact and comfortable way.
Robie H. Harris continues her series for preschoolers with a look at the many kinds of families that make up our world.
Robie H. Harris introduces preschoolers to the pleasures of eating healthy, being active, and feeling good.
Robie H. Harris helps preschoolers understand what makes us who we are - from our height to our hair, from the shade of our skin to our eyesight.
"I recommend [IT'S PERFECTLY NORMAL] to parents and children who are coming into adolescence. They will love it." — T. Berry Brazelton, M.D. author of TOUCHPOINTS
"A perfectly wonderful treatment of the always touchy subject of sex education for young people. The book treats the subject seriously and its intended readers respectfully." — Hugh B. Price, president, National Urban League, Inc.
About the Author
Michael Emberley is the illustrator of many books for children. He lives in Ireland.
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My favorite of the four books is Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole of Magic School Bus fame, and I confess that it led me to think of a number of inappropriate MSB titles for it that made me snicker like the target age group. But I digress. This book is written in simple question and answer format under different sections. For instance, early in the book, there is a heading Finding Out About Sex with two questions: Is it normal to be curious about growing up? and Is it okay to ask about sex? With these questions, she simply answers that yes, it's perfectly normal, without falling into the pitfall that other books on puberty and reproduction can fall into, making children self-conscious and embarrassed with their constant stressing of how self-conscious and embarrassed the child probably is. Instead, the matter-of-fact tone assures children that it's all good. Asking About Sex and Growing Up covers the questions simply in a conversational tone and seems largely unbiased to me. For instance, in many of the questions, she mentions different points of view, such as how some people are opposed to sex before marriage while others disagree. This leaves room for parents to further discuss these issues in light of their own beliefs. This book does discuss abortion, but I felt that Cole kept her bias on this topic to herself, too. After reading her answers to four different questions about abortion, I'm not sure what she personally believes about it, which is as it should be in an educational children's book. She also covers topics like sexual abuse and STDs. I also love that she has a section stating that the most important thing to know about sex is respecting both oneself and others. Overall, I really like this book. I like that it is not specific to either boys or girls, instead covering all the information for both sexes. I also feel like it could be used for either secular or religious households because she does maintain a respectful understanding that people of different beliefs feel differently about many of these topics.
Second place goes to What's Happening to My Body, though I'm still not 100% sure about this one for reasons I'll explain. First, I'll comment on the positives. One of the things that I particularly like about this one is the inclusion of quotations at the beginning of each section from different adults who have completely different points of view. For instance, the first chapter begins with four quotes about puberty from four adult men who all had different opinions on what puberty was like for them. I think that can be helpful to let children know that whatever they think of what their bodies are doing, it's okay. Like Cole's book, this book is really detailed and goes into all kinds of topics, including masturbation. Both Cole and Madaras are matter-of-fact about this issue and assure kids that it's not harmful and, most importantly, that there's not anything wrong with them if they do so. And since I mentioned this topic in the reviews for the other books, I'll mention that this book does not discuss abortion at all though there is information about abortion and Planned Parenthood in the Resources section. I am confused at some of the negative reviews, however. Many of the topics, including slang words for genitals, that people reported do not seem to be in my edition of this book. However, other topics are present that I'm disturbed by. I'm not convinced that the book needed to include a discussion of hymens, blue balls, or boys masturbating together. Because of these topics, I might let my 15 year old son read the book, but I would not let my 12 year old read this one.
I expected the Robie H. Harris books to be preferred by my children because of the simple, cartoon style of the books. However, none of my children cared for these books at all. The older two said that What's Happening to My Body was far more detailed--they didn't always appreciate the extra details, but they agreed that if we're reading books for information, more details beat fewer. They also simply didn't find the two cartoon characters at all amusing and questioned their inclusion. Their preference is why we chose against these books. However, I have my own issues with these books, and that issue is in the bias. Don't get me wrong here--I knew that It's Perfectly Normal contained information about abortion before we got it, and I felt that Cole's book mentioned above handled the topic well. That said, I particularly didn't like that this chapter is biased while pretending that it's not biased. The chapter begins by defining abortion as "a medical procedure performed for the purpose of ending a pregnancy," and it mentions that it can be an emotional decision. So far, so good. But this is followed by a full page speaking of abortion with positive descriptions and a long list of reasons people might want an abortion. Another page and a half is devoted to discussion of court cases and laws. And in one single paragraph, children are told that some people think abortion should be illegal, that they believe "that an embryo or fetus has a right to life--a right to grow in a woman's body and to be born whether or not that woman wants to have a baby." So, emphatically not unbiased. As this is a book for the education of children, and the cover states that the book is for ages 10 and up, I personally feel like the discussion about abortion could have just had the first paragraph--it's a medical procedure that ends a pregnancy and people's feelings about it are not always simple. No more is necessary for the stated age group. Even worse, she mentions that sometimes an abortion happens on its own, which is called a miscarriage or spontaneous abortion. That may be accurate, but equating a miscarriage with the medical procedure in a book written for 10 year olds is out of line. I was also disgusted to see it mentioned in It's So Amazing, which is for ages 7 and up. This one has only a paragraph about abortion, but even that is inappropriate for the age group in my opinion, and this page, which also discusses adoption, ends with the cartoon characters agreeing that they "like to have lots of choices." So in the end, I agreed with my children regarding the amount of information contained in these books compared to the others, and I also dislike them for these additional reasons.
In the Cole review, I mentioned a common pitfall of puberty and reproduction books, that of potentially making children self-conscious about the subject by harping on how the reader is probably self-conscious. All four of these books avoid this pitfall. One thing that I did like about Harris's books (even though my children didn't) is the cartoon characters, specifically that the bird is excited and wants to know more while the bee seems to feel like the entire subject is TMI. All of these books attempt to make it clear that a child's feelings about this subject are fine, regardless of what those feelings are, and I imagine that they are largely successful.
I found this book to be very informative and written at a level for preadolescent kids to be able to easily understand. It's laid out with illustrations and small comics in a way to help keep their attention. It does show naked bodies, genitalia , people having intercourse, and so forth. It covers a variety of topics that are important in today's world such as no means no, how to stay safe online, be careful what you text and email, and of course, safe sex practices.
Top international reviews
I would NOT recommend this book as an introduction to sex ed for a child. That is what I was looking for. This clearly is not it. I Will be returning it.
I gave him the option and he asked me to read it with him, so that's what we're doing. At first I thought it might be a bit much, but after reading the chapters on puberty I'm pleasantly surprised at how eagerly he's taking it on board. We're reading everything, I was originally focusing on the boys stuff, in particular when we were reading about puberty, but he was so engaged that we read the girls puberty section too, and now we've gone back to the start to read the whole book through.
There are a lot of explicit drawings, including people having sex, but they are cartoony and friendly.
This book is the only thing you'll need for "The Talk", and I know for sure if I tried talking to him without this amazing resource I would have barely covered a page or two of what's in this book, and in far less detail.
There's even a section on how to handle ending up on the wrong side of the internet, those xxx sites, and how to behave in general when using the internet regarding personally identifiable information.
My kid was afraid to read this book when I first gave it to him, I was asking him every day if he'd read any of it, he hadn't. But once I sat down with him and read a couple of chapters he's been asking me in the evening if we can read more. It's a great book, I highly recommend it.