My 9 year old is hilariously easy to embarrass. I only have to say the word S. E. X (even in the context of Middlesex, seriously) and he goes the most beautiful pink colour whilst scrambling to get out of earshot. I have sat down with him and gone through the very basics of the facts of life, but he couldn’t cope with much and frankly, I’m in no rush for him to know all the details - I guess that soon enough that’s all he’ll be thinking / talking about. But the good old Clare Rayner book that I bought to assist with that conversation is a little dated and although very factual and not too complicated, doesn’t really cover all the issues that kids these days need to know.
The same cannot be said about this book, which the nice Robert Winston with the big mustache has written, alongside other worthy contributors including child psychologists, mental health nurses and professors in sexuality education (no, i didn’t know that was a thing either).
This book literally covers EVERYTHING. Literally - from studying abroad to armpits, dandruff to halitosis, household chores to safer sex - it’s all in here. It’s format is simple, there are chapters and within the chapters are more detailed sections. There are diagrams and pictures, little boxes with side points. It’s this that makes it so useful - a lot of the info is for older kids (it’s meant to cater for kids aged 9 - 18) but as the chapters have been broken down into different sections, you can ensure that your kid only sees the bits that are relevant (unless you let them loose on it, which I wouldn’t recommend for anyone younger than 15/16).
In a year or so, I’ll be able to sit down with my kid and talk him through the healthy body section (maybe he’ll start actually washing in the shower rather than just making a godawful mess). The healthy mind section will be useful too, to engage him in chats about positive mental health from a young age, and covering confidence and self esteem and resilience and stress as he makes the transition from primary to secondary education. There’s a great chapter on School life, with homework tips and of course the all important Digital life chapter, all about staying safe on the internet, and how to use social media effectively. There is also, obviously, everything you need them to know about sex and reproduction, all in glorious technicolour - I honestly found a lot of it really informative, and although I knew most things (but not all!) it’s really helpful to have the facts laid out in such a clear and direct way.
I genuinely think this book will give me the confidence to tackle issues which I feel important to have a dialogue with my kids about - as with all things in life, I feel more confident with a book in my hand and as a reference resource for me and them, this will go a long way toward being able to broach certain subjects, secure in the knowledge that I’m giving them the right information.
In many ways this is the modern day Clare Rayner book, dependable, sensible, not too worthy and above all, hugely informative. For parents of kids aged nine upwards, I would say this is a must have.
Review by Hannah @alondonviewofbooks