The Period Book: A Girl's Guide to Growing Up

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
The Period Book: A Girl's Guide to Growing Up Book Poster Image
Very informative -- but limited -- sex ed book for girls.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Clear, helpful information on girls' sexual development with practical tips to help girls figure out which type and size of bra to wear, which pads and tampons to use and how to buy them without embarrassment, what to do when your period catches you unprepared, and more. Discusses what's normal and what may require medical attention. Explains some of the problems with sexting and what to do about sexual harassment. Includes diagrams, illustrations, and a detailed index. Does not discuss sexual activity or related concerns.

Positive Messages

A wide range of body types are normal, healthy, and attractive. There's no reason to be embarrassed about growing breasts or having your period. Physical changes don't mean you're turning into a different person. Sexual harassment and pressure should never be tolerated. If you ever have concerns about your body, ways your changing, or your relationships with other people, bring your concerns to a trusted adult.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Urges young readers to talk further with trusted adults, including relatives, friends, and doctors. Reassuring, friendly tone underscores message that there's nothing to be ashamed about during puberty. Emphasizes commonalities among girls.

Violence & Scariness

Section on sexual harassment includes anecdotes about a man exposing himself and a classmate physically and verbally harassing a girl.

Language

Some slang terms for "boobs, "t-ts," and "butt."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Period Book: A Girl's Guide to Growing Up offers clear, helpful information for girls about the ways they're changing physically and emotionally during puberty. This 2017 revision of Karen Gravelle's original book (published in 1996) thoroughly covers menstruation and much more, including bra options, eating disorders, braces, and sexual harassment. It's a very helpful guide for two major rites of passage: choosing a first bra, and getting your period. The book is written with a candid, friendly tone and includes plentiful illustrations of external and internal anatomy, including how to insert a tampon. While it covers far more than periods, it does not discuss sexual intercourse and related topics such as birth control and sexually transmitted infections. Aside from a brief reference to same-sex attraction, the text presumes readers are heterosexual. This book is appropriate for children as young as 8, given that girls may begin puberty then. Adults should read this before sharing it with young children, and be prepared for follow-up conversations.

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What's the story?

THE PERIOD BOOK: A GIRL'S GUIDE TO GROWING UP details the physical and emotional ways girls change as they go through puberty, particularly when they get their period. It starts by describing obvious external changes, such as growing breasts and pubic hair, and then explains internal changes. The book walks readers through choosing a bra, preparing for getting your period, handling menstruation emergencies, and dealing with pimples, mood swings, cramps, braces, and more. It explains what periods can feel like, how to minimize discomfort, and when to get help. It also discusses how growing older can affect friendships and provides advice for healthy relationships.

Is it any good?

Author Karen Gravelle helps girls and their families grow more comfortable talking about periods, pubic hair, and pimples without blushing in this friendly, compassionate update of her sex ed book. The Period Book: A Girl's Guide to Growing Up arms girls with information they need to feel confident and capable through puberty. It's packed with reassurance and practical advice, and well served by Debbie Palen's informative and entertaining illustrations. 

Gravelle does an excellent job with what she chooses to cover, going beyond periods to discuss skin care, braces, nutrition, and relationships. Unfortunately, she skips some key subjects: sexual intercourse, consent, masturbation, sexually transmitted infections, birth control, homosexuality and transgender kids, and HPV vaccine. (Gravelle included all of these in her companion book for boys, What's Going on Down There?) The passage on sexting also fails to note possible legal concerns. In all, this is an excellent conversation starter -- but not a complete guide to growing up.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the frank language and illustrations in The Period Book. Do they make it easier to discuss menstruation and puberty with your parents or friends?

  • Have you or any of your friends or classmates been involved with sexting -- sending nude photos? What happened? (Get advice on talking with your child about sexting, or read our Sexting Handbook.)

  • Do you still have questions this book didn't answer? If so, bring your questions to a trusted adult.

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