CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 7. . . .October 16, 2015
Sex is a Funny Word is quite a departure from the usual pre-teen books on the topic of sex. In keeping with recent developments in society’s growing acceptance of transgendered people, this is touted as the first trans-inclusive book for kids though transgender is not at all its primary focus. The book’s main themes are respect, trust, joy and justice as they relate to the topic of sex, and through its various sub-topics the book promotes inclusion and encourages kids to be comfortable with who they are, both inside and out. An excellent resource for parents and educators, it begins with a cautionary note and explains how to use the book. It is suggested that the adult read the book prior to giving it to – or reading it with – a child and that it should not be read in just a few sittings. Rather, it is meant to be read in smaller bits so that children have time to think about some of the concepts presented, formulate questions and engage in discussions with their parents. Part comic book, part easy-going, conversational text infused with humour and candor, as well as different perspectives, this title features four characters – Zai, Cooper, Mimi and Omar – who range in age from eight to ten. As they go about their daily lives, they have casual conversations and ask some good questions for the audience to ponder.
There is basic information about the names and functions of body parts, how bodies grow and develop (with emphasis on what Silverberg refers to as the “middle parts”), gender identity and roles, and touch (including masturbation), as well as how readers can protect themselves against unwanted touch – even something as simple as hugging a relative if it makes the child uncomfortable – and abuse (also referred to as “secret touch”). In addition, the book covers views about nudity, crushes and relationships, different types of love, the various meanings of the word “sex”, and what the author calls “sexy feelings”, but it does not discuss intercourse or reproduction (those topics will be covered in Silverberg’s next book). Each of the six chapters begins with a comic and ends with a question or an activity. What is, perhaps, most impressive about the book is that the author, a sex educator, does not talk down to kids and shows enormous respect for his audience. He writes a blog and provides more tips and resources on his web site www.corysilverberg.com for interested parents.
The cartoon-style illustrations are simply drawn and rendered mainly in red, green, purple, yellow and blue and outlined in black. Even the main characters’ skin is not rendered in the usual flesh tones of real people. Instead, it is lilac, blue, purple and orange. Smyth has succeeded in capturing Silverberg’s intention and message with her lively illustrations and does so in a way that is sensitive and thoughtful.
A table of contents and a glossary are provided.
Honest, educational and guaranteed to benefit both parents and kids.
Gail Hamilton is a former teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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