Monday, October 24, 2011

It's Perfectly Normal

Harris, R.H. and Emberley, M. (2009). It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
LA5385: YA Lit / Informational

Well, I have to say I learned a few things about the good ol' birds and the bees. Truly I did.  This book is straight forward and explains things in a matter-of-fact way.  I would say especially to parents who aren't comfortable talking to their kids about these subjects (puberty, sex, etc.), it would be doing the kid a big favor to hand over a copy of the book to the kids.

Yes, there are illustrations and explanations that are going to make the kids giggle.  There's A LOT of nudity.  Some of it, including intercourse and masturbation,  may seem a little naughty to a ten-year-old. . . or a fourteen-year-old. . .  or a forty-year-old.  My point is that it's all about the perspective and the background and comfort level of the reader.  The parent or teacher needs to decide the age appropriateness. The book does a good job of presenting, in a non-judgmental fashion, the wide variety of changes that happen to our bodies, the wide range within which those changes take place, and the diversity of the results of those changes.

The author does not shy away from sex and that sex is done for pleasure as much as procreation, but it does repeat the message that sex can cause pregnancy and that abstinence is the only true protection from pregnancy and disease.  It mentioned the alternative of "postponement," which I really hadn't heard before.  "Postponement" is apparently just temporary abstinence.

Apparently, this book is considered "pornographic" by a group in Arkansas (go to: Pornographic Library Book Pictures ), and when you look at their site, and the select pictures and phrases they chose to show how awful the book is, you can kind of be persuaded that it IS pornographic! Just goes to show the power of those who want to censor.  I had to laugh - and I share this even if it may make some wonder why I noticed - but on the censor website, they have. . . ummm. . . tampered with one of the illustrations.  If you'll notice, the website shows an illustration of a young man without and with an erection and cites p. 37.  In the copy I have of this book, the anatomy on this guy is a bit smaller in both pictures.  I suppose it could have been an illustration from a different edition they showed on the website, or someone who thinks that size does matter when calling something pornographic. Who knows? And who knows why they felt the need to embellish? I also noticed they say it's for "3rd -6th grade." My edition says ages 10+ (isn't that about 5th grade?). Again, I think this is a cheat to pull people over to the dark side of censorship.

Back to the book and its merits and shortcomings.  The latest version has added in updated information on HIV/AIDS, the HPV vaccine (but only is suggested for girls), and Internet safety.  Chapters 25 - 29 are a bit heavy for a ten-year-old, and they are also more wordy, with less illustrations.  I think teens would quickly lose interest after the easy, colorful style of the previous chapters.  The information is very good, but it's too much packed in at the end.

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