A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
SEPTEMBER 29:

  • Happy birthday Marissa Moss (Amelia’s Notebook).
  • It’s the birth date of Stan Berenstain (1923-2005), Berenstain Bears series.
  • In 1916 John D. Rockefeller became the world’s first billionaire. Read John D. Rockefeller: Oil Baron and Philanthropist by Rosemary Laughlin.
  • It’s National Attend Your Grandchild’s Birth Day. Read Zero Grandparents by Michelle Edwards and Grandparents Song by Sheila Hamanaka.
  • It’s also National Coffee Day. Read The Bug in the Teacher’s Coffee and Other School Poems by Kalli Dakos, illustrated by Mike Reed, and All Because of a Cup of Coffee by Geronimo Stilton.

I live in a highly literate, educated, and politically centrist town in Massachusetts. While others have been cutting school money, Westwood recently built a new library. The children’s staff here has to be one of the best I have ever seen in action, responsive to teachers and parents. For me personally, they have provided amazing support for my books over the years.

In the last fifteen years, only one children’s book has officially ever been challenged in my town: our book of the day, Robie H. Harris’s It’s Perfectly Normal. Even though the sticker on the second edition boldly says “for age 10 and up,” books about sex for young people bring out the censors, even in towns like Westwood, MA. For the forthcoming Banned Books Week, I’d like to take a look at this title that has been challenged frequently since publication.

But if you want a book that answers young people’s questions about sex, no better book has been written. Harris has been a passionate advocate for providing children with the information they need as they go through life’s difficult passages. Although I absolutely loved the first edition of this book in 1994 and was proud to give it a Boston Globe–Horn Book Award, I think the tenth anniversary edition is even better. The author has updated some of the information of AIDS and STDs, making it even more important for young people to have this book in their hands.

Michael Emberley’s artwork includes the dialogue between a bird and a bee: the bird wants to know more, and the bee is less than eager for information. Emberley’s art brings humor to the subject, and he illustrates many of the points with rotund, certainly less than perfect, bodies. So not only can young readers savor the text, they can laugh as they do so—certainly a great gift in this subject area.

James Thurber asked “Is Sex Necessary?” but he did so as a much older man. For the young it can become an obsession. It’s Perfectly Normal is just the book for them—gentle, nonjudgmental, funny, and engaging.

So to First Amendment advocate and my old friend, Robie Harris, a nod in appreciation and in recognition of how she has spent the last two decades of her life. Children need information, all kinds of information, and Robie has worked tirelessly to make sure that subjects like sex and childbirth get communicated to the young in a clear way. This goal has landed her work on the banned books lists, year after year—but she has made it possible for children to live better lives, because they have the information that they need.

Here’s a passage from It’s Perfectly Normal:


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Originally posted September 29, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Award Winning, Boston Globe-Horn Book Award
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for It’s Perfectly Normal
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COMMENTS

  1. Laura W says:

    I’m looking forward to sharing Robie’s books with my little girl one day. Talking about physical changes and puberty was not something I wanted to do with my parents when I was young. I remember sneaking pads out of my mother’s bathroom when I got my first period and not telling her til months later. And sneaking a razor when I decided it was time to shave my legs. Sometimes it’s simply just too awkward to talk to your mom. If that’s the case, a copy of It’s Perfectly Normal, casually left on your daughter or son’s bed, would be a great thing.

  2. Vicki Solomon says:

    This wonderful book is needed more now than ever, as young pre-teens are pushed to be sexy and stylish without understanding very much. Thank you, Anita, for focusing on it.

  3. I think this book is great and am so glad you have brought it to the Almanac. I bought this book for my own children when they were young. I believe well informed people make better choices. I also have this in my elementary school library in the professional reference section for parent’s to borrow.

  4. Ashley says:

    Though I can see why such a book would be challenged, I can also see how this could be a complete lifesaver for teens (and their parents, who can’t quite figure out how to talk to their children about so many of these sensitive issues). I’ll have to keep this in mind in about 15 years when I have children old enough to experience those exciting, yet unfamiliar changes. Let’s hope the author keeps making updates to stay current. Good pick!

  5. Anita says:

    Thanks everyone for your comments. This is an important book, and I am glad to hear it is getting into the hands of young readers.

  6. Leslie Wentz says:

    I think this is a great book. Interesting that it is missing from my collection that I share with parents and it is missing from our school library!

  7. Beth says:

    My mom got/read me this book when I was 8ish back in 1994. I remember it and, as an adult, I look back and realize that it was awesome! I think it helped make me comfortable and confident with myself. Didn’t know the book was still around and being talked about. I will definitely get this for my kids one day.

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