Most of us can probably recite that scene with the gym teacher in Mean Girls by heart: “Don’t have sex or you will get pregnant… and you will die”. As much as it makes us laugh, a lot of millennial and even Gen Z parents probably still had a sex education experience similar (if not identical) to that. Some school programs are (hopefully) getting better, but are we also getting better at teaching our kids about the wide world of sexuality, gender and puberty? Luckily, some clever sex educators have done the work for us, and are proving that typical sex ed books don’t have to be bright pink or blue with abstract diagrams or innuendos for body parts. Here are some recent books that bring sex ed into the digital world and go far beyond just the birds and the bees.
You Know, Sex
by Cory Silverberg & Fiona Smyth
(Seven Stories & Triangle Square, 9781644210802, ages 10-14, p/b, £20.99)
Top of our list is our kid’s Book of the Month for May… You Know, Sex. I have to admit, when I was flipping through this one even *I* was learning new stuff. It’s so comprehensive and well laid out, You Know, Sex is the cream of the crop when it comes to a modern sex ed resource. As well as going through the usual stages of puberty and the biology of sex, this graphic novel takes the time to explore consent, building healthy relationships, questioning gender, LGBTQIA+ perspectives, same-sex relationships, and – to top it all off – has anatomically accurate and diverse depictions of bodies!!! Rather than overwhelming you or your kid with information, this is a book that’s easily explored chapter-by-chapter, providing interactive activities as you go.
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Puberty – and Shouldn’t be Googling (for Curious Boys)
by Morris Katz & Amelia Pinney
(Downtown Bookworks, 9781950587131, ages 10-14, p/b, £9.99)
The “boys edition” of Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Puberty – And Shouldn’t Be Googling is an illustrated graphic novel that does exactly what it says on the tin, and more! As it’s introduction touts “this isn’t the puberty book your parents read in Stone Age health class”, this book is written from the perspective of an older brother, exploring health, hygiene and sexuality in a more engaging way. As well as covering the essentials, this book also delves into the effects of puberty on self-esteem and self-image, demonstrating how young boys can recognise distorted thinking when it happens. Additionally, it covers extremely pertinent subjects like social media, cyberbullying and treating women with respect.
Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Puberty – And Shouldn’t Learn On TikTok (For Curious Girls)
By Andrea Davis and Amelia Pinney
(Downtown Bookworks, 9781950587360, ages 10-14, p/b, £14.99)
The “girls edition” of Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Puberty – And Shouldn’t Learn On Tik Tok is another down-to-earth look at how young girls experience puberty, offering sisterly advice and wisdom along the way. For instance, how to handle acne, to how to choose a bra, to what to use when you get your period. The author’s anecdotes and humour keep this no-holds-barred approach light and accessible for readers. Similar to the boy’s version, this one also covers relationships, sexuality, social media and other pressing, contemporary issues.
My Mom Had an Abortion
by Beezus B. Murphy & Tatiana Gill
(PM Press, 9781629639130, ages 14+, £11.99)
This graphic novel for ages 14+ does exactly what most of us wish teachers and parents would have done for us as teens: it tells the truth. Written by a self-described dyslexic-asexual-lesbian-feminist teenager and illustrated by body-positive comic artist Tatiana Gill, My Mom had an Abortion takes the reader on a coming-of-age journey as the protagonists comes to understand menstruation, reproduction, abortion, and her place in a confusing world. This title fills an important gap in sex education, by challenging the narratives we subconsciously absorb and teaching us new ways of understanding reproductive rights.