A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Sex Is a Funny Word: A Book About Bodies, Feelings, and YOU, by Cory Silverberg and illustrated by Fiona Smyth, is a companion book for older kids to 2013's What Makes a Baby. Characters Zai, Cooper, Mimi, and Omar are kids between 8 and 10 years old who approach learning about sex and bodies very differently, affirming the various responses that kid readers might have as they work through the book. Neither reproduction or intercourse is discussed, but masturbation is described. Diagrams, definitions, and explanations explore different meanings of sex, bodies and their sexual organs, gender, touch (including "secret touch"), and relationships. Body-positive messages are communicated in inclusive text and pictures throughout. Skin color is represented in green, orange, pink, purple, blue, etc., while hair, facial features, head coverings, and clothing show a variety of ethnicities, cultures, and genders. Crowd and family scenes depict a wide range of family compositions and people of different ages and abilities. This comprehensive, thoughtful guide to bodies will appeal to older kids who are curious about bodies and, yes, sex.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
SEX IS A FUNNY WORD opens with a note to adult readers. And then we meet Zai, Cooper, Mimi, and Omar, all ages 8-10, as they're in class beginning a unit on sex. The teacher says that learning about sex is like a carnival: You can't do it all in one day, and it can be fun, strange, and a little scary. The classmates are shown in various situations that relate to each chapter topic like "What Is Sex?" "Learning About Bodies," "Boys, Girls, All of Us," "Touch," and so forth. Comic strips, two-page scenes, diagrams, and explanatory text work together to show and explain terms and ideas. Discussion questions and activity suggestions end each chapter, making this book suitable for educational settings as well as family reading, and a glossary at the end defines terms that are referred to but not named in the book itself (asexual, transgender, etc.).
Is it any good?
Not your typical book about sex for kids, this fun, honest volume covers the topic in new and exciting ways. Sex Is a Funny Word provides a framework of foundational information about bodies, gender, and touch, and then invites young readers and their adults to talk to each other in order to "fill in the blanks" with beliefs, values, and connections to family history, culture, and community. This book isn't actually about sex: It's about providing a foundation for kids to understand sex as a big, multifaceted life experience.
Also notable is the book's lack of jargon -- you won't find identity labels or advanced terms in the text (though there is a useful glossary) -- which means that all the different ways we talk about and define ourselves are available to use in the conversations this book will inspire. The interesting, diverse characters and inclusive language and art mean that every reader will be able to see themselves in this book. Fiona Smyth's thick-line cartoon drawings and bold color choices make for a visually absorbing read. This truly modern and open-ended guide about sex, bodies, and touch will help parents and kid readers alike take a thoughtful, relationship-building path toward growing up.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the different meanings of "sex" explored in Sex Is a Funny Word. Were any of these meanings new to you? When you think about the word "sex," what feelings come up for you? What questions?
In the chapter on "touch," the authors talk about "secret touch." How would you describe secret touch? Kids: Who could you talk to if someone told you they'd experienced unwanted secret touch -- or if someone touched you and told you to keep it a secret?
Comic strips, cartoon drawings, diagrams, and lively scenes make up the art in this book. How do the illustrations support the words? How does the art impact you as a reader?
- Author: Cory Silverberg
- Illustrator: Fiona Smyth
- Genre: Body Awareness
- Topics: Adventures, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, Science and Nature
- Book type: Non-Fiction
- Publisher: Triangle Square
- Publication date: July 28, 2015
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 7 - 10
- Number of pages: 160
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: ALA Best and Notable Books
- Last updated: September 25, 2020
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