Girling Up: How to Be Strong, Smart and Spectacular

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Girling Up:  How to Be Strong, Smart and Spectacular Book Poster Image
Lots of knowledge and positivity in girl-power advice book.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Many aspects of sexuality, especially puberty, explained. Anatomical drawings of male and female genitalia and reproductive organs. Sex, arousal, erection, and ejaculation explicitly explained. Drawings illustrate different breast types to show the range of normal. Lots of facts and information about the physical and emotional changes during puberty, including easy-to-understand scientific explanations. Provides many resources for getting help with eating disorders, abuse, depression, and more.

Positive Messages

Thorough understanding of your body, mind, and spirit empowers you to make the best decisions. The range of normal is huge, and you're exactly the way you're supposed to be. Bodies are amazing things, and they make us capable of even more amazing things, so take good care of yours and love it exactly how it is, no matter what others say or think. The better we understand ourselves, the better we can engage with the world and make the impact we were meant to make.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Author Mayim Bialik is a great role model for finding her passions and figuring out how to pursue them. She has diverse interests and encourages girls to be well-rounded. She emphasizes how empowering knowledge is and is upbeat and encouraging of girls to be amazed by their bodies and minds and to appreciate and even love being female.

Violence
Sex

Sexuality and puberty explained in detail, including anatomical drawings. Sex, arousal, reproduction, masturbation, and more explained. Emotional impact and effects of puberty also explained in the context of romance, dating, making decisions about having sex, and how hormones affect your body and your feelings.

Language

Accurate terms for genitalia, including "penis," "labia," "clitoris," and so on.

Consumerism

Liking Ferraris as an example of an unconventional interest for a woman.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Alcohol and drugs aren't effective stress relievers; alternatives are offered. Resources provided for Alcoholics Anonymous and Alateen.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Girling Up: How to Be Strong, Smart and Spectacular is an advice book for tweens and teens about physical and emotional changes during puberty, by The Big Bang Theory actress and Ph.D. in neuroscience Mayim Bialik. The premise is that knowledge empowers us to make the best decisions about ourselves and our place in the world. There are anatomical drawings and detailed explanations of male and female genitalia and reproductive organs. Bialik explores why we feel the emotions we do and how to cope with them and the stresses life throws at us every day, including Bialik's belief that organized religion can be a source of help during stressful times. She also encourages mindfulness and meditation. Positive reinforcement fosters a sense of wonder about our bodies and appreciation for how amazing and special it is to be female.

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What's the story?

GIRLING UP: HOW TO BE STRONG, SMART AND SPECTACULAR uses biology and neuroscience to answer questions many tweens and teens have about how their brains, bodies, and emotions change during puberty. Actress and author Mayim Bialik puts her Ph.D. in neuroscience to good use as she explains in detail, with anatomical illustrations, the hows and whys of puberty, from body image, coping with stress, nutrition, and school to hormones, dating, sex, and more.

Is it any good?

Mayim Bialik's enthusiasm and positivity for all things "girl" are infectious as she carefully, thoroughly, and joyously explains the science behind puberty. In this text that's easy to understand but never dumbed-down, tweens and teens will find the answers to what their bodies and minds are going through. They'll also be comforted by knowing they're not alone, they're perfectly normal, and there's a lot to celebrate about Girling Up.

It's a refreshingly inclusive book. Bialik mentions a lot of things that have helped her, like organized religion, but she understands and respects other paths for finding comfort in hard times or peace of mind when things get stressful. The illustrations show a variety of body types and ethnicities, so any girl can easily relate to the explanations, answers, and possibilities she lays out. Bialik has taken topics that seem scary and, by helping young women understand what's going on, turns uncertainty into empowerment.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how knowledge is power in Girling Up. Did you learn anything surprising? How will what you've learned help you as you grow into adulthood?

  • Why do you think a successful actress like Mayim writes books, too? Do you think she's genuinely passionate about "girling up"? What about financial rewards?

  • If you have more questions this book doesn't answer, where else can you look for the information you need?

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