“Start teaching your children about sex before the child molester does.”
Tooooooo creepy. That’s too creepy, right? For a library summary of a children’s book, it is MANY TIMES too creepy. I just cannot. BUT the research says that teaching children about their bodies is the first step towards preventing child abuse, and my kid keeps asking but WHY she has to wear pants though.
So I took out a bunch of books, which I have rounded up for you below, ranging from adorable to NOPE, in no particular order.
The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers – Stan and Jan Berenstein
I…do not enjoy the Berenstain Bears books. I find them sanctimonious and wordy and their names are literally Brother and Sister like they are some four-person cult. Also, I fundamentally disagree with the parenting involved here. Sister is too friendly, Papa reads her all the horrifying newspaper articles about cubs being stolen, etc, and THEN reads her a bedtime story about a goose being lured away and eaten by a fox, Sister is (justifiably) terrified of fucking everything, Mama offers some bullshit platitudes about wariness and a few bad apples, Sister is cured of her fears, Brother almost goes off with a stranger (because he didn’t get the lecture about the apples, I guess), Sister shouts ‘NO’ like she means it on his behalf, they all have applesauce together, and scene. It is so dumb and terrifying and counter-productive. BEWARE ALL STRANGERS EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE PROBABLY FINE BUT SOME WONKY-LOOKING APPLES ARE DELICIOUS AND SOME REGULAR-LOOKING APPLES HAVE WORMS SO USE YOUR COMMON SENSE.
Just, like, do whatever, apparently.
Once Upon a Dragon: Stranger Safety for Kids (and DRAGONS) – Jean E. Pendziwol, Martine Gourbault
I have QUALMS about books with a Message that also Rhyme. Like, it’s super hard to make them sensitive and explicit but also have good meter. I prefer some straightforward non-fiction for shit like this. THAT SAID, this is kind of an adorable conceit about a girl and her dragon being accosted by various fairy tale ‘strangers’ (Red Riding Hood’s wolf, Hansel and Gretel’s witch) offering them short cuts, treats, rides, and the girl being like, kapow!
Those Are MY Private Parts – Diane Hansen
I have so many problems with this book. The Comic Sans. The library summary. The illustrations by the author’s four-year-old daughter, which is a sweet idea but does not make me want to look at it with my eyes. This ‘Empowerment Publication, Published by Empowerment Productions, To Empower Our Children’ has got to be a vanity project. Anyway. We’ve discussed my feelings about shoe-horning a message into a rhyme and how difficult it is to do well. This is not done well. To get unnecessarily pedantic, IT SCANS POORLY.
THIS BOOK IS AMAAAAAZING. My only complaint is that it’s hella long, it’s like 57 pages. And that’s because it covers errrthing. Private parts, sperm and eggs, pregnancy, types of families, ‘not okay touches,’ so ok maybe it is trying to do too much. But it does everything so. well. One of my favorite spreads is early on, Girls Do This, Boys Do That. It’s all, Girls catch fish and worms and bugs! So do boys! Girls and boys both dance, and can have short hair, and are basically the same except for their bits. And Robie Harris gets a ton of WELL-DESERVED praise for diversity in her books – racial, cultural, sexual, ways-of-getting-pregnantual, ways-of-giving-birthual, like it’s NOTHING, like we’re living in the future and everybody’s lifestyle and choices are their own business and totally fine. I can’t even talk sensically about this book because of how much I love it.
Includes very brief, very child-appropriate descriptions of erections and p-in-v sex, so if all you want to talk about right now is bodies and parts, maybe put this one aside for later.
My Body Is Private – Linda Walvoord Girard
I like how this book provides several examples of private things – a bedroom, mail – to broaden the idea of privacy. There’s an uncle whom the main character prefers not to be touched by, because it’s always the uncle. SORRY UNCLES Y’ALL ARE THE DEFAULT CREEPERS. Anyway. This is a totally inoffensive specimen of a book.
Amazing You! Getting Smart About Your Private Parts – Dr Gail Saltz
This is another basically ok book. The only problem I ran into was the page where it’s like, Do you have a funny name for your private parts? And if your kid doesn’t already, they will. I mean, it’s trying to promote learning the correct anatomical terms, but you don’t need to be giving kids ideas. OH AND ALSO, very bland and heteronormative and not totally correct description of how babies are made (‘When a man and a woman love each other and decide that they want to have a baby, a man’s sperm joins with a woman’s egg,’ etc). So, ok, downgrading to Not Great. This book is Not Great.
Try better next time.
My Body Belongs to Me from My Head to My Toes – Dagmar Geisler
Great book that details types of touching a child may not want – being tickled too hard or held too tight – and how to respond when you’re not in the mood to be touched or when someone won’t listen. DEARTH OF CREEPY UNCLES.
My Body Belongs to Me – Jill Starishevsky
Books about bodies belonging to you have the same struggles as books about the digestive tract, title-wise. AGAIN with the rhyming, and you get lines like ‘Mom and Dad once told me/I was their little gem,/and if someone hurt me/to always come to them,’ which is clumsy and has ambiguous antecedents. PARENTAL ADVISORY: most books just sort of dance around the subject like, If someone touches you there, but there is Actual Private Part Touching in this book (by the uncle’s creepy friend, natch).
The Right Touch – Sandly Kleven
This is a bedtime story about a little girl who follows a stranger who offers to show her some kitties, but then puts his hand down her panties! The story about the girl is being told to a little boy by his mother, who is teaching him about ‘touching problems,’ so it’s, like, mildly less creepy because once removed? I dunno, I find the ones where Actual Abuse occurs to be extra unsettling. BUT MAYBE THEY ARE EXTRA EFFECTIVE I DON’T UNDERSTAND CHILD PSYCHOLOGY. Anyway. Your comfort levels may vary.
The Bare Naked Book – Kathy Stinson
THIS IS JUST A BOOK ABOUT BODY BITS. But I love it because it’s like, Here is a page full of illustrated belly buttons, and here is a page about shoulders, and here is a page about nipples! Like, all of these are body parts and they are all great and normal and great.
ALL BODIES ARE GREAT OK?
Have you had The Talk with your littles? Are you letting books do it for you? Which books?