Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg

This is a fabulous book. My 8-year-old daughter read it to herself after we started it with her, which told me two things: 1)It wasn’t boring, like a lot of books about growing up that put the reader to sleep with chapters on things like Personal Hygeine, and 2)it wasn’t TMI, because she didn’t freak out over it or stop reading it because it made her uncomfortable.

There’s a great intro page that explains what this book isn’t about: how babies are made, or sexual intercourse, which the writers, Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smyth, see as better dealt with in other books. This book deals a lot with the language around sex and what it means, and more especially, the feelings you might have. The only sexual activity it discusses is masturbation, which seems age-appropriate to me. I don’t want to scare my daughter about sex.  I want her to feel good about her body, first and foremost, and this book is great for that.

As you can see from the cover, it’s very colorful, and it depicts diversity in not only bodies but also gender.  These four characters are with the reader throughout the book, and when they are introduced in the beginning, they are not identified by gender, only by age, likes and dislikes. Each character responds differently to different topics.  This is one of my favorite layouts:

Zai is not specifically a boy or a girl, and they don’t know how they feel about it yet. (Notice this is not an issue until an adult uses this distinction to divide children up for some activity!) I really appreciate that the book normalizes contemporary discussions of gender, by doing such simple things as making this chapter called “Boys, Girls, All of Us.”

Another thing this book does consistently well is ask the reader questions, instead of handing them answers. The writers really encourage the reader to think about their own experiences and how they feel, and validate all those feelings. 

There is a good discussion of “Secret Touch” in the  chapter “Touch,” which makes a really sophisticated point that secret touch might feel good or bad, or make  you feel a lot of different ways, but what makes it wrong is that the other person wants you to keep it a secret. I also enjoyed the bit about maybe showing those annoying grabby relatives that you care about them without having to endure their touch. I remember one of my father’s friends always snaring me and my sister whenever he visited, saying “Give us a kiss, give us a kiss now!” Ew. So repulsive. 

I know my daughter thinks this book is no big deal, but as a parent, I think it’s a massive deal! And I know  her thinking it’s no big deal is a really good thing.  I’m glad Silverberg and Smyth felt there was a need to address sex at this stage, sort of after kids know how babies happen, but before kids want to talk about sex acts.  I don’t remember there being any books for this stage when I was kid, and it would have been nice to be encouraged to just get comfortable with my own body first, before I had to think about having sex with some other person.  I can’t recommend this book highly enough.


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