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Embracing Our Strengths and Ourselves

by Ruth K. Westheimer & Dena Neusner ; illustrated by Cynthia Decker

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-68115-551-7
Publisher: Apples & Honey Press

A conversation starter about physical autonomy.

Famed sex therapist, educator, and Holocaust survivor Westheimer appears as an illustrated, unnamed narrator in this title aimed at helping children grapple with issues of consent, bodily autonomy, and confidence. The closing statement, “I’m in charge of my body! My body is just right for me!” encapsulates the heart of the book, but various missteps undermine its important message. Apart from the backs of two people’s heads on the last page, Westheimer’s illustrated character is the only human to appear since text and cartoon art use anthropomorphized animals to enact the instructive scenarios; this seems like a missed opportunity to present diverse people asserting themselves and listening to others. Also unfortunate is the exclusivity the often humorous, heartfelt, and well-intentioned text inadvertently promotes with line such as “Each of us has eyes for seeing…hands for touching…arms for reaching,” and “jump up and down. Do some jumping jacks. Then stand tall and make muscles with your arms,” which ignore readers with myriad disabilities. The misfortune of that erasure is highly ironic, considering the high incidence of abuse that disabled people experience, since this book attempts to empower children to speak up and seek help in scenarios where they feel vulnerable, violated, uncomfortable, or crowded.

Potentially helpful but far too limited and exclusive in its scope.

(Picture book. 4-7)