“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Friday, September 25, 2009

The 15th anniversary edition of It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health • Non-fiction

The 15th anniversary edition of It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health
Written by Robie Harris • Illustrated by Michael Emberley • September 2009 • Candlewick Press • Non-fiction • Ages 10 and up
“A book about sex that manages to be honest without losing its sense of humor.” The New York Times Book Review
Story: The Birds and the Bees: There comes a day in every parent’s life when you and your child must have “the talk.” You know the one; it goes something along the lines of, “Well… we do need to…talk about…I need to talk to you… about…sex
But before you launch into the business of the birds and bees, make sure you have It’s Perfectly Normal by your side – you know, for those moments when you’re at a loss for words.

Considered the definitive book on kids’ sexual health, It’s Perfectly Normal provides accurate, unbiased answers to nearly every imaginable question, from conception and puberty to birth control and HIV/AIDS. This 15th anniversary edition has been completely updated for the 21st century, including new information on the HPV vaccine and a brand new chapter about staying healthy and safe on the Internet. Says Robie, “When my editor and I discussed that It’s Perfectly Normal would soon be fifteen years old and the way to celebrate would be to publish a 15th anniversary edition, I realized that there was one topic that was not in the book—the Internet. While I knew a lot about the Internet, I didn’t know enough to write a responsible new chapter. So yet again, I went back to many of the experts I had gone to in the past—parents, younger teens, teachers, school principals, librarians, health professionals, clergy, and some new experts, including Internet experts. Once again, I learned a lot, especially from the kids I interviewed. The title of this new chapter is: HELPFUL, FUN, CREEPY, DANGEROUS—Getting Information and Staying Safe On The Internet.”

Click here for tips on how to use all three books in Harris’ and Emberley’s FAMILY LIBRARY: It’s Perfectly Normal, as well as It’s So Amazing! and It’s NOT the Stork! with your children and teens.

The Story Behind the Birds and the Bees: Some giggle, some gasp, but most are charmed and fascinated when they open up the book – that’s perfectly normal.

Sex is a complicated subject, not easy talk or write about or illustrate in an age-appropriate and comfortable manner for kids, teens, and their families. But since its publication in 1994, over one and one-half million copies of It’s Perfectly Normal have been sold, testifying to the fact that so many families, schools, libraries, and health organizations in this country and around the world have found this book helpful in providing the information our pre-teens and teens need to have to stay healthy. And yet, It’s Perfectly Normal has been no stranger to controversy, due to the efforts of some groups and some individuals who feel that our kids and teens should not have access to the information that is provided in It’s Perfectly Normal. That’s why, despite its numerous awards, this book has landed on ALA’s top ten banned book list. While no book is a perfect fit for every child or family, both Robie and Michael strongly believe that those kids and families who choose to read their book have the right to do so—so that they may have access to the most up-to-date and accurate science facts about reproduction, puberty, and sexual health.

Says Robie, “One of my core values when it comes to talking to kids and teens – and talking is what I do in my books – is to be honest. For if we are not honest or leave out information our kids and teens have a right to have, then what we say or what we write about in a book will have no credibility.
If you are someone who disagrees with my values, I have the highest respect for your right to disagree with what I have written. That’s why as an author I would never, ever say that my books should be in every home, every school, or every library or bookstore in America. But I would say that in our democracy, any person, any family, school, library, organization, health professional, or clergy member who chooses to have my books should have the right to do so, and that right needs to be respected and protected as well."
FYI:  all the review copies for this title have been sent; please check back and click on the comments link to read what your colleagues have to say.


Pamela Kramer said...

This is a great book. It is honest and extremely informative. So informative, however, that I feel it is not appropriate for an elementary school library.

I looked forward to receiving it with great anticipation. We study sex ed (or the human reproduction system) in fifth grade. What a great additional source for students with more questions, I thought.

Unfortunately, because of the illustrations and some of the topics, I can not recommend this book to the librarian (she agreed). Even though we work in a fairly liberal environment, the parents do not want their children receiving quite so much information at the age of ten.

I do think that this is a great book for middle school and even high school. It is very informative and the language is clear.

My picnic basket rating: 4/ 5
Great for some picnics...

Susan Appleton said...

I think this is an awesome resource. It is honest and very straight-forward. I would NOT however recommend it for students in elementary school because of the illustrations which are little TOO informative but I think that classes on the middle school/high school level might find it better suited for their students. It is very informative and concise about the topics covered and the language is straightforward and easy to read. I would give it a 5 out of 5 for the older students.

Kim35inva said...

This book is a great informative book for older students. I would not suggest this book for elementary students. The cartoon illustrations and text are too explicit for younger children. The illustrations do NOT leave much to the imagination. Parents could use this book to inform their children about certain topics on sex that are difficult to discuss with their children. This is definitely a book that curious students would read from cover to cover.

janew said...

I wish I knew about this book when my children were adolescents! Surely we talked about growing and changing throughout their childhood but I know there were questions when they became adolescents that they were uncomfortable in asking and adult. This book is a wealth of accurate, honest, and unbiased information that would provide answers to those unasked questions (and the reader can seek the answers as the questions arise AND privately!--what more could a teenager want?).
Information is power and this book will support its readers as they navigate the tricky and confusing teen years. Congratulations to Harris and Emberley! 5!

Barbara said...

As mentioned by others, this is a refreshingly inclusive, informative book and one I wish I had access to when I was in those teen years...but I don't see how I can use it in my middle school classroom. I have given it to our school librarian and perhaps she will come up with a solution.
It is too explicit for some to be just left on a shelf, and yet it has the information and reassurance that some of our students need.

Rating 4/5

Kimberly Watson said...

I posted earlier under kim35inva, but I forgot to give my rating. I would rate this book a 5/5 for older students and parents.

Anonymous said...

This a fantastic book to share with my own personal children, however, this is not a book that I would post on a library shelf or within a classroom library at the elementary level. It is a book that I will have as a resource to recommend to parents. I will gladly share my copy with them but it is not something I would have out for the students to self select.

A. Hunt said...

Wow! What a book! "It's Perfectly Normal" made me feel like an junior high kid again as I had to run and hide it from my students and family while feeling extremely immature as I gawked at the extremely well drawn illustrations of the female and male anatomy.

I had been looking forward to reviewing this book, sharing it with my own daughter, and then passing it to the school nurse. No can do. Although it is well written and its contemporary vernacular are well presented, it is too explicit for my middle school classroom book shelves. Perhaps it would be better used in a high school setting.

1/5 Middle School Picnic Basket
3/5 High School Picnic Basket

A. Hunt
8th Grade Language Arts Teacher
Fort Walton Beach, FL

Linda said...

I had to go back to school for a meeting, opened my mail and brought it in with me to the meeting. During the meeting, a parent tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, with a smile, "I have that book. It's the greatest!" I agree. It needs to be read with a parent or upper level middle school, but is a great resource of information that is written in a very "mature" mode.

Anonymous said...

I ordered a reviewers copy of this book not knowing what I would think of it because of the topic and was greatly impressed. I first shared it with my 10 year old son who had some reservations, but now he is learning from it too--mainly because of the great illustrations. The information is straight forward and written in a way that is easy for a child to understand. I will keep this book at my house for my younger daughther because I think it is a bit too much for my 6th grade classroom library, but will be glad to share the title with parents if they ask about a good resources for the topic. A 5 out of 5 for my rating.

Heather Hill said...

I ordered this preview copy because my husband and I disagree about how early to start talking about sexual health. After reading through the book, I can honestly say that I wish my parents had had a copy of it to share with me. Information is presented in an appropriate way, though I was a bit surprised at the amount of naked illustrations. Regardless, I will be using the book with my own children when it is time. And I feel better about the whole overwhelming task because I am armed with this book.

I give the book a 4 out of 5.
Heather Hill, Reading Specialist
Enterprise Elementary
Woodbridge, VA

juli said...

This updated version is a great reference and resource. It is frank, to the point and non-judgemental. It explains things in very simple and user friendly language. With that being said, I teach 5th grade and we do have a unit on puberty and the reproductive system, but I would not be comfortable using this book in my classroom. It is perhaps too frank and graphic to just have in a classroom or elementary library. I would feel comfortable sharing it with parents whose children have questions that cannot be answered in our sessions, however. I give the book a 5 out 5 for content and frankness and a 2 out of 5 for usability in my classroom.

Jennifer Hansen said...

This book is full of great information and is written in a way that children can easily understand. I agree with the authors age recommendation - ages 10 and up. However for the younger end of this spectrum I would highly recommend adult supervision.

As an Elementary School Librarian, I will pass this tool on to my school counselor to use during her “Changes” lesson with 5th graders. I will also pass this information on to other counselors in my district (Middle & High School). I believe this book would serve as an excellent tool for Sex/Drug Education classes. I will not keep this book on shelves for open circulation, but will definitely recommend it to others.

As a parent of two daughters (ages 7 & 8), I will provide them with a copy of this book after giving “the talk”. I am amazed at all of the information that is covered in these 90 easy to read pages. I especially like the bird and bee comic that goes along with each page expressing their different opinions. I feel that this is an important addition to the book because it lets children know that it is okay to have mixed feelings about the topic.

Special Kudos for the chapter on Internet Safety!!

To wrap it up, this is a book every parent should know about and share with their child when the time is right.

Martine Battista said...

The cover of this book carries a recommendation for ages 10 and up. Age 10?!? Seriously? Wow! I know I live in a "conservative" area, but instructions on how to put on a condom is not my idea of 5th grade reading. I think this book would be a great resource for high school, but I can't recommend it for a lower audience. I rate it a 4 for high school and a 1 for elementary and middle schools due to it's explicit nature.

Denair Elementary School Library
Denair, CA

EShay said...

I have put this off because I am not sure what to say. This is a very open and honest look at sexuality. It lays it all out on the table and would answer most questions I think children might have.
However, when I showed this book to my high school students they asked who the book was for. It was unanimous that they did not think the book would be appropriate for elementary school students. I thought that was interesting. I asked random students - not just those in my Children's Literature class.
I believe it would be a perfect book for parents to share with their children. However, I would have real difficulty just leaving it on a shelf in an elementary or middle school. I am unable to give it a rating because I am so torn.

Lemon the Duck said...

I think this book is great. The illustrations alone are informative and present information in a nonthreatening way. It softens the blow but is honest and accurate in its portrayal.
The information in the book is accessible, clear, and covers a variety of "embarrassing" topics in a matter of fact way.
This book is not for everyone of course. It's one for the home, but most likely will not be welcomed in school.
It is truly a great resource for parents and their adolescent children.
I give this book 4 out of 5.
Laura Backman
Hathaway School
Author of "Lemon the Duck"

Amy said...

This is a great resource. I don't think it has a place in elementary libraries, but it is a great book to recommend to parents want help on how to share this information with their children.

I especially liked this updated version with the sections on internet safety -- so many kids are not being taught this at home or school, so this is a great added feature.

I give it a 5/5 for parents to use section by section when age appropriate with their own children.

Elementary Librarian
Houston, Texas

Megan B. said...

This book is very informative. However, like many of the other posters, I see a few problems with it. When it says it is for children ages ten and up, I question that. I think twelve might be a better starting point, at least for some sections of the book. Second, I see it as mainly a book for parents to go through with their children. I am all for sex ed, but some of the information presented seems like something parents may or may not want their child to know.

I give this book a 3 out of 5.

SunshineFamily said...

I am a big fan of Its not the Stork as well. I think this book as well as It's Perfectly Normal takes a tense and awkward subject and makes it easy to manage. I think this would work best at home for ages 10 and up but also feel that it should be in high schools for all those kids who are afraid to ask and are relying on what their friends tell them. It is very informative and in a very simple language without being patronizing.

I don't teach sex education but I would definately use this with my own children once they are a little older.

Laurie said...

While the book is VERY informative and comical in many ways, I have to disagree with the 10 and up suggestion. I think maybe more towards 14 and up.

Even at that, used with a parent I think it could be helpful but as far as ust being given to a child it goes a little too far in my opinion. Facts are important but there are many in depth drawings that seem a little over the top to be given to a young child.

I give it a 2/5 rating.

m.otoole said...

It's Perfectly Normal is *THE* most recommended book among my 12 member book group when we talk about sex eds for our children. I have all 3 books in my personal collection (It's Perfectly Normal,It's so Amazing and It's Not the Stork) Each of my girls have had the most developmentally correct version to look through on their own and we talk directly and openly about issues about sexuality.

I was so excited to read the updated version, and happy to add it to my library collection. I agree to a certain extent about not being able to shelve this book within the general collection (we are a k-8 school) but will definitely have it available for our sex ed classes, parents who might need it and also students who might need it as well. I am especially happy to have the new chapter about the internet, as a parent and a librarian too.

Peaceful Reader said...

It's perfectly normal by Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley celebrates 15 years in print with an updated version for the 21st Century! It takes me back to my Free to be you and me w/ Marlo Thomas! I love the pictures created by Michael Emberley and the text is very easy-to-read as well as fun. This is the perfect informational text/tool for parents to share with children when that time comes to have "that" important chat. This book could make this "chat" easy!! Shared together, parts of it would be appropriate for even young children. Other parts might be better left to when they are about to experience some of those wonderful changes. Here is a quote from the beginning:
"Sometime between the ages of eight or nine and fifteen or so, kids' bodies
begin to change and grow into adult bodies. [insert cute cartoon picture
of bird and bee] Most kids wonder about and have lots of questions about what
will be happening to them as their bodies change and grow during this
time. It is perfectly normal for kids to be curious about and want to know
about their changing and growing bodies." [p. 9, It's perfectly normal]

Notice the repeated use of change and grow...and every page after demonstrates really succinctly exactly how bodies will...yes, you know it...change and grow. The bird and the bee help us understand little points along the way in a fun cartoon way while other illustrations show realistic people of all types. Trust me you will want this book in your hand before, during and after that "chat"! While it is not appropriate for elementary library it is very appropriate for high school, middle school and on your shelf at home!

Natalie H. said...

Great resource for parents and their preteens/teenagers! Honest, informative and straight-forward. 5 stars!

Mrs. Horne said...

Flipping through this took me right back to being a teenager myself! My mom handed me a book similar to this and while it was embarrassing, it was helpful.

I like the approach - clear and to the point - with a lot of great information. I wouldn't add this to my classroom library obviously, but it is going to find a nice home in our gym/p.e. department for when they do sex ed.

Rating: 5/5

Lindsay Horne
New Kent Middle School
New Kent, VA

cupcake said...

I gave this to my 12-year-old daughter and asked her to read it, explaining that if she had any questions, I wanted her to ask me. I think it speaks highly of this book that my daughter read it and said, "It helped me understand a lot of stuff."

And for that reason alone, I give this a Picnic Basket rating of 5.

SunshineFamily said...

I need to comment on the opposition to the 10 and up recommendation. I would not plunk it down in front of a 10 year old and say there you have it, any questions but I would use it as a way to start a conversation. Many girls get their periods at age 10/11. There does not seem to be anything in the book that suggests their understanding of how sex works, and the prevention of pregnancies works is going to make them participate in sexual activity any younger but I want you to consider this- that teen pregnancy is a national problem and it affects children on all races and economic backgrounds. It is not because we are OVER educating our children that this is a problem. I agree that we should not plop this on a shelf in 4th grade and hope no one asks us about it. I think it needs to be used hand in hand with direct conversation. Maybe you skip the section on condoms for a later date but this book offers a non medical, non judgmental view of sex and puberty. It is funny and clear and factual. Keep this in mind, I know of parents who have no problem taking their child to see Iron Man which in addition to loads of violence also has a steamy sex scene. Sex is already there and we hardly bat an eye at the "harmless" movies, comic books, video games, music videos and so on that are around but we shudder at the thought of giving our 10 year olds actual facts.

As for the libraries, it is absolutely the place where this book needs to be. I am not saying to put it in the Juvenile Picture Books but there are a lot of lost and confused children out there and isn't it better for them to learn about sex from a book with facts then Judy Blume?