A debut illustrated guide explores the most formative years of modern human life.
Despite its somewhat somber cover image, this book delivers a warm and inviting narrative for young readers and teenagers. (An obstetrician and gynecologist, Spence hopes the manual will also prove useful to parents, caregivers, and teachers.) Each section tackles a new stage of human development, laying out the facts and the science involved in comprehensible language that’s almost always optimistic and upbeat. Each chapter opens with a brief comment directed at young people, an observation that is meant to put the forthcoming matter in perspective, as in the chapter on genetics: “The genetic information that makes up the directions for your growth is similar to a plan to build a Lego toy or to blueprints for building a house.” Or the remark about birth itself: “What a change! You have been growing for nine months in complete darkness, bathed in the amniotic fluid in your mother’s uterus, supplied constantly with nourishment in a warm and protected environment and with only muffled sounds to please your ears.” Accompanied by delightful illustrations by Baker, these chapters take readers from the womb to birth to infancy, through the toddler experience, and into the physical and emotional tangle of the teenage years. With a helpful blend of fact and guidance, the narrative drops its readers off on the doorstep of adulthood. The text is occasionally guilty of oversimplification, as when the audience is told: “Humans, at the top of the animal kingdom, are unique in that their young cannot survive without their mothers or the wider family’s care.” And although the section on same-sex attraction is sensitively nonjudgmental (“It is not for us to judge, but to allow others to be true to themselves”), AIDS is mentioned only a few sentences after homosexuality is first introduced. But in general, the manual Spence creates in these pages is an invaluably clear and straightforward collection of answers to the most basic questions his young readers will have about the stages of their lives.
A brisk, useful, and extremely accessible handbook about growing up.