________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 7. . . .October 16, 2015


Sex is a Funny Word: A Book About Bodies, Feelings and You.

Cory Silverberg. Illustrated by Fiona Smyth.
Seven Stories Press (Distributed in Canada by Penguin Random House), 2015.
159 pp., hardcover & ebook, $23.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-609-80606-4 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-609-80607-1 (ebook).

Subject Headings:
Sex instruction for children.
Sex differences-Juvenile literature.
Sex (Biology)-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.

Review by Gail Hamilton.

*** /4



When we are born, a doctor or midwife calls us boy or girl because of what we look like on the outside. They choose a word or label (usually boy or girl, or male or female) to describe our bodies.

But that’s based on our outside, our cover, and who
they think we are.

What about our whole body, inside and out? What about who
we think we are?

As we grow into being a kid and then an adult, we get to figure out who we are and what words fit best.

Most boys grow up to be men, and most girls grow up to be women.

But there are many ways to be a boy or a girl. And there are many ways to grow up and become an adult.

For most of us, words like boy or girl, or man or woman, feel okay, and they fit. For some of us, they don’t.


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.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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