Due to recent discussions and inquiries about sex at our house, I had requested the book It’s Not the Stork by Robie Harris from our local library. Based on some of the reviews on Amazon, I was expecting a book for older kids and was a little surprised to see the circle on the front as saying it was for ages 4 +. I agree that this book is completely appropriate for that age group.
The book is honest and straight forward and answers some seemingly complex questions in a simple way that children can understand. The simple cartoon-like illustrations, while anatomically correct, are modest and not at all graphic. Harris addresses both similarities and differences between the bodies of men and women, girls and boys. She takes a non-biased view on issues, keeping everything to the facts.
I liked the fact that while it stated that most babies are born in the hospital (I would personally add in the United States to this statement), that some are born at home. While not mentioning it specifically, he doesn’t leave out unassisted birth due to his statement that many moms have someone help them out and equally mentions doctors and nurses along with midwives and doulas. No where is it stated that all women utilize these people.
The first part of the book focuses on correct terminology of body parts, utilizing a style shown in many board books where body parts are labeled with a line pointing to them. It focuses solely on reproduction after introducing terminology, mainly focusing on anatomy and what happens after the egg is fertilized. One statement explains that the man places his penis into the woman’s vagina during sex. This is the only mention of that and frankly, it’s needed after your children pass the stage where they want to know exactly how sperm reaches the egg. Contrary to one Amazon reviewers claim that the associated illustrated is soft porn, the picture merely shows a man and woman in bed covered up with a quilt. Since most people in our society sleep in bed with some type of covering, I’m not certain how that could be construed as something else.
The book goes on to cover how a baby is formed and grows. Despite the cartoonish nature of the drawings, I’ve noticed my five year old picking the book up to look at the babies and the mother’s pregnant bellies. Harris briefly mentions some of the needs newborn babies have, again taking an unbiased view on topics such as breastfeeding and bottle feeding. I was delighted to see an illustration of a mother tandem nursing her newborn twins.
After addressing reproduction, the author briefly goes over what are okay touches and what are not – that it’s okay for you to touch your private parts if it tickles and feels good but that it is not okay for others to touch you. She also mentions that families can look very different, including all of the many children in our society who live in a family that doesn’t conform to the typical nuclear family.
Besides some initial giggling from my children at the beginning of the book with the mention of poop (why is it that children find poop so funny?), I mainly thought the book was very well written and illustrated. There were two things I would change. In the illustrations which show the differences between an intact penis and a circumcised penis, discussed with Harris’s unbiased writing style, the intact penis is labelled uncircumcised. Since penises are naturally intact, this really is not a correct way to describe them. The other part was in the discussion of who is allowed to touch your private parts. The author mentions that it is okay for doctors to touch you in order to help you. I personally skipped over that part. It’s my opinion that it is unacceptable for anyone to touch another person’s private parts without permission.
The book is geared for toddlers and preschool age children. With younger children, one could easily skip over parts that they weren’t quite ready for. I was pleased with the content of the book and look forward to exploring some of the author’s books for older children.
Previously posted at Living Peacefully with Children.