Funny and frank, this will be an important resource for many kids.

TELL ME

WHAT CHILDREN REALLY WANT TO KNOW ABOUT BODIES, SEX, AND EMOTIONS

As the subtitle indicates, this German import answers a whole host of questions kids curious about sex want the answers to.

There are 99 in all, covering anatomy, puberty, reproduction, sexual and gender identity, and, of course, sex. The book opens vertically, with the page below the gutter displaying both the handwritten question and a cartoon drawing, frequently humorous. The second question, “Are there different penises,” is illustrated with a double lineup of 10 unengorged penises complete with hair and scrota, some circumcised, some not, all verifiably different. Its placement so early in the book ensures readers know what they’re getting into in terms of both tone and frankness. Sex educator von der Gathen’s answers appear on the flip side; all employ appropriate vocabulary that’s respectful of the capabilities of their audience and are calmly inclusive of variations in human and cultural experience. While the book early on establishes the fact that there are “people who identify as a different gender than the one they are born with,” it often uses gendered language to describe experiences: “Girls get their periods for the first time and boys have their first ejaculation” during puberty, for instance. When discussing sexual intimacy, the importance of consent is ever present. Kuhl’s cartoons depict adults and children of different racial presentations and include several same-sex couples.

Funny and frank, this will be an important resource for many kids. (Nonfiction. 8-14)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-776572-32-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Gecko Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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With young readers diagnosed with anxiety in ever increasing numbers, this book offers a necessary mirror to many.

GUTS

Young Raina is 9 when she throws up for the first time that she remembers, due to a stomach bug. Even a year later, when she is in fifth grade, she fears getting sick.

Raina begins having regular stomachaches that keep her home from school. She worries about sharing food with her friends and eating certain kinds of foods, afraid of getting sick or food poisoning. Raina’s mother enrolls her in therapy. At first Raina isn’t sure about seeing a therapist, but over time she develops healthy coping mechanisms to deal with her stress and anxiety. Her therapist helps her learn to ground herself and relax, and in turn she teaches her classmates for a school project. Amping up the green, wavy lines to evoke Raina’s nausea, Telgemeier brilliantly produces extremely accurate visual representations of stress and anxiety. Thought bubbles surround Raina in some panels, crowding her with anxious “what if”s, while in others her negative self-talk appears to be literally crushing her. Even as she copes with anxiety disorder and what is eventually diagnosed as mild irritable bowel syndrome, she experiences the typical stresses of school life, going from cheer to panic in the blink of an eye. Raina is white, and her classmates are diverse; one best friend is Korean American.

With young readers diagnosed with anxiety in ever increasing numbers, this book offers a necessary mirror to many. (Graphic memoir. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-545-85251-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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A painful and painfully recognizable tale of one girl’s struggle to make and keep “one good friend.” (author’s note)...

REAL FRIENDS

A truth-telling graphic memoir whose theme song could be Johnny Lee’s old country song “Lookin’ for Love in all the Wrong Places.”

Shannon, depicted in Pham’s clear, appealing panels as a redheaded white girl, starts kindergarten in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1979, and her story ends just before sixth grade. Desperately longing to be in “the group” at school, Shannon suffers persistent bullying, particularly from a mean girl, Jenny, which leads to chronic stomachaches, missing school, and doctor visits. Contemporary readers will recognize behaviors indicative of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but the doctor calls it anxiety and tells Shannon to stop worrying. Instead of being a place of solace, home adds to Shannon’s stress. The middle child of five, she suffers abuse from her oldest sibling, Wendy, whom Pham often portrays as a fierce, gigantic bear and whom readers see their mother worrying about from the beginning. The protagonist’s faith (presented as generically Christian) surfaces overtly a few times but mostly seems to provide a moral compass for Shannon as she negotiates these complicated relationships. This episodic story sometimes sticks too close to the truth for comfort, but readers will appreciate Shannon’s fantastic imagination that lightens her tough journey toward courage and self-acceptance.

A painful and painfully recognizable tale of one girl’s struggle to make and keep “one good friend.” (author’s note) (Graphic memoir. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62672-416-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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