Sausalito Public Library Children's Book Lists
This is page collects book lists by Erin Wilson, the Sausalito Library Children's & YA Librarian. These lists were originally published in the Library's Children's E-Newsletter. You can signup for the newsletter through the website or by contacting the Library, (415) 289-4121.
If you have questions about these lists, please feel free to contact Erin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Books about Bodies and Sex for Young Children
Children are curious about their bodies and sex. Some children ask lots of questions and some don't, but access to developmentally appropriate resources will help make sure children get the information they need.
My hope is that this list can help you locate books that feel right for you to read with your child, or to read before speaking to your child to identify topics to discuss and to prepare answers to questions. I hope these books will help you articulate what you want to say in discussions with your child.
I want to highlight three books on the list.
In Tell Me About Sex, Grandma by Anastasia Higginbotham, a grandson (the gender isn't clear but I'm going to say the child is a boy) asks his grandmother to tell him about sex. He's already searched for information under the bed, in the bedside table, and on an ipad -- all places where kids can find pornography. The boy walks away from those searches looking sick to his stomach and uncomfortable. At that point he does what we all hope children will do: he finds a trustworthy adult and asks for more information.
The grandmother and the child are both lively, believable characters who are easy to identify with. The child is curious but wary, the grandmother is loving and knowledgeable but wary. Their conversation is clear but it takes a long time -- they interrupt it so the boy can paint a picture, so they can eat a snack, and then later so they can go to the playground. In that way the book models the fact that conversations about sex are uncomfortable, there is a lot of information to absorb, and it doesn't have to happen all at once.
The book focuses on consent, choice, and the fact that our relationship to sex changes as we grow. The grandmother says, "Your sexuality is something you discover as you go along -- how you feel, what you like, and who you like. It belongs to no one else but you. No one else is allowed to boss you into sex, or to take it from you without your permission. You get to choose whether to do it. Same goes for everyone. You choose for you. They choose for them."
It is instructive that the child goes to their grandmother with questions: kids may feel safer to ask their most intimate questions of an aunt, uncle or grandparent.
The book is part of the Anastasia Higginbotham's 'ordinary terrible things' series from the Feminist Press. The series includes, Divorce is the Worst and Death is Stupid.
What Makes a Baby by Cory Silverberg describes the process of making and growing a baby in a way that is factually accurate but doesn't rely on words like father, mother or love. It starts with saying that a sperm and an egg are needed to make a baby and a uterus is needed to grow a baby, but not all bodies have sperm, eggs or a uterus. It asks direct questions of the children reading the book, "Who helped bring together the sperm and the egg that made you? Who was happy that it was YOU who grew?"
This book was initially recommended to me by a lesbian couple. It's the book they've used with their children. Some of the language in the book is confusing (the sperm and the egg "dance" and share their "stories"), but for non-traditional families of any type, it is incredibly important to have a book that separates the idea of fathers and mothers from the process of making a baby and a family.
Who Are You: A Kid's Guide to Gender Identity by Brook Pessin-Whedbee begins and ends with information for adults, including websites and books, and a page-by-page guide for the book's content.
The book presents the idea that sex is different than gender and that there are many genders, and it includes a list of different words that people use to express their gender identity. In that way it is a very contemporary book. Living in a community and culture where people have a wide range of gender identities, I think it is important to have a book that introduces those ideas to children.
One of the book's main points is that we are all shaped by gender and we all choose how to inhabit gender, whether it is wearing skirts, playing with trucks, having long hair, choosing a profession, or having children. Whether we're following typical gender norms or moving outside them, we're all still choosing what it means to be our gender.
In some ways the book is a contemporary version of Free to Be - You and Me, Marlo Thomas' groundbreaking album and movie about what it means to be "free" to form ourselves. The album includes a song about William wanting a doll and a retold fairy tale in which Atalanta wins a race and gets to choose who or whether to marry.