Friday, July 5, 2013

What makes a baby

What makes a baby
by Cory Silverberg
illustrated by Fiona Smyth 
Language: English 
New York : Seven Stories Press, ©2012, 2013. 
1 v. (unpaged) : col. ill. ; 24 cm. 
ISBN: 9781609804855; 1609804856
Annotation: The cover of this book states that this is “a book for every kind of family and every kind of kid” and it truly is. In the most general of ways, this book begins with the sperm and the egg but in a brilliant turn asserts what has not been asserted before in a children’s book, that some bodies have sperm, and some do not, and that some bodies have eggs, and others do not. This is so undeniable and obvious that one wonders why this hasn’t been stated in quite this same way before in a children’s book on human reproduction. While other books proclaim simply that sperm come from males and eggs come from females, this book admits that this is not always the case, again, without positively stating so. Think trans individuals for example. After introducing children to the terms sperm, egg, and uterus, Silverberg, a sexuality educator, asks, “Who helped bring together the sperm and the egg that made you?” Here the book clearly veers away from all other children’s books on reproduction by implying that not every sperm and egg come from a mommy and a daddy. In fact, the words mommy and daddy are completely absent from the book, conveying to children that not all families are made up of mommies and daddies. Although there are many other gay-themed children’s books that state the same thing, this is one book that can be used for children conceived both with and without assisted technology. In fact it would be very useful in families where each sibling could possibly have been conceived in a different way. It provides absolutely no details about how the egg and sperm come together, whether through heterosexual intercourse or assisted conception, so the book clearly leaves the area wide open for parents to fill in these details, anticipating that the child will have lots of questions about how the sperm and egg get together in the first place in order to make babies. The rather sparse text is counterbalanced by the vibrant and vivid illustrations which convey a tremendous amount of information not specifically stated in the book, for the book’s aim is clearly to delineate the barest of facts about reproduction and leave the rest for the inevitable extended discussions and explanations that develop from a close reading between parent and child. For example, Silverberg writes, “Inside the egg are so many stories all about the body the egg came from.” Smyth’s illustrations then depict the inside of an egg with an open book, movie film, puppets, and a family tree. The egg is a very busy place! The same is done for the sperm with a look inside depicting family photos, a double helix, and another opened book. The book ends beautifully with the question, “Who was waiting for you to be born?” aptly letting children know that they are here because someone wanted them to be here. The brightly colored cartoon illustrations depict genderless bodies and no nudity. Recommended for children ages 3-5 and also 5-8. This is a book that children will want to go back to again and again with a parent as a reading partner to answer their evolving questions. This book comes with a highly recommended reader’s guide which can be downloaded from
Interview with the author: 

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