Books About Sexuality and the Human Body for Kids and Teens

As many of you know, I’m a big proponent of sex-positive child rearing (Thanks Dax Shepherd and Kristen Bell for teaching me those words!) I think it’s important that we communicate about sexuality, puberty, gender identity, etc. as early and often as our kids can handle it! We started communicating on the topic very early with my son and he’s always been super blase about it for just that reason. He doesn’t see anything unusual or disgusting about reproduction, etc. because he’s pretty much always known about it!

Now, I didn’t have these conversations all on my own. I know it’s hard to figure out what’s important and appropriate at a particular age for a child, so I used several books (presented in this list) to help me out! They are all great titles but, I’ll admit, pretty progressive. None of them prescribe moral values to sexuality but most of them introduce all of the relevant topics and leave room for families to discuss together how they feel about them.

If you’re looking for vague, fluffy titles that will allow you to talk about the stork and ‘special hugs’ between Mommy and Daddy, these aren’t the books for you. But if you are seeking some assistance in helping your child understand the truth about ALL of the topics related to human sexuality, there’s a arsenal of good help right in this list!

How did you broach this topic with your child? Did you use any books to help you? What were they? Do you recommend them? I’d love to know in the comments below!

10 Great Books I’m Gearing Up to Read (or Read Again!) – October 5, 2020

Here’s a list of books I’m gearing up to read…including one that I’m reading for a second time just to take it all in!

This list includes a few Middle Grade titles, a couple of YA books and a few adult titles (no nonfiction this time!) that will sweep you away! The thing I really love about this list is that there are so many books about relationships and coming-of-age.

As you’ll see, I’m reading my first Neil Gaiman (what do you think?) and rereading There There by Tommy Orange. I finsihed There There a couple of months back and loved it but didn’t feel like I gave it my full attention. There were so many characters and so much good content that I decided to give it a reread (something I NEVER do!)

Do you reread much? Any of these books that you’ve already read and would highly recommend I move to the top of the stack? I can’t wait to dig into these and would love to hear your thoughts!

12 of Our Favorite Picture and Board Books!

I just adored creating this list of picture books and board books that we have loved! It was a total walk down memory lane for me and every title on this list comes with a story from my son’s life! He’s 12 now…but these are the books we read and loved for the first 1-4 years of his life!

I still collect children’s books…I don’t know if I’m creating a collection for future grandchildren or if I just love them, but each of these books is part of that lovingly curated stack! Some of our absolute favorites are Pat the Bunny, Goodnight, Gorilla and Moo, Baa, La, La, La! We occasionally revisit them just for laugh and a fond memory!

I couldn’t hold myself to just 10 titles on this list and you’ll see why. These are endearing books that are perfect to share with a little one and perfect to give as gifts for a baby shower or birthday party! What titles will you always remember from your childhood or from reading to a child? I’d love to know!

What’s Next on Audio? September 28, 2020

Oooh…do I have a list of audiobooks for you?!? Everything from compelling nonfiction to a Middle Grade classic (with some mythology and YA thrown in for good measure,) I promise you’re going to love this list!

I always have an audiobook going in my car and occasionally also listen while I am knitting or crocheting (if I can get everyone else out of the room! :0) and there are some titles on this list that I’ve already started and several that I can’t wait to dive into! Follow-ups from Angie Thomas and John Green top the list, followed by my first dip into Louise Penny and Rick Riordan! Fill the list out with two non-fiction titles that promise to deliver information and thought-provoking entertainment (Wild Things and Invisible Women) and a few other amazing books…and you’ve got a list that is not to be missed!

Join me in checking out these books on audio (I highly recommend it) or grab your own copy on paper or for your e-reader! I’d love to hear whether or not you are loving these books the way I am…and what format you’ve decided to tackle them in!

Book Review: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins – 3 stars

My son and I were so excited when we heard that Suzanne Collins had written a prequel to the Hunger Games series. We preordered The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes and began reading it as soon as it was released. Having loved The Hunger Games and Catching Fire (we enjoyed Mockingjay a little less) and watching all of the movies…we couldn’t wait to read the story of President Coriolanus Snow and the history of Panem.

I have to admit…the book has fits and starts. It starts off pretty slow. And it’s LONG…439 pages…with very long chapters. As a read-aloud between my son and I, we often had trouble getting through a chapter a day (our usual habit) and had to put a chapter on hold to be completed the next day.

In The Ballad, we learn about Snow’s history as a young man and get flashbacks of his childhood. I think the point of this part of the book was to prove to us that Snow wasn’t initially as psychopath but there’s not much about him that’s likable. Every chapter ends with a ‘big surprise’ that catches your breath but the story between the chapters’ ends seems to drag.

It picks up a bit when we actually get into the Hunger Games. We meet Lucy Gray and the other tributes and watch as they fight it out with the help of their mentors (4th year students, of which Snow is one.) There’s a ton of chicanery going on from the Capital and their gamemakers and we’re meant to see how Snow gets pulled into it and disabused of his innocence.

The sideline story of Sejanus Plinth (Snow’s rival and ‘friend?’) is interesting and I found myself occasionally wishing that Plinth’s story had been the one we were meant to follow. His moral compass seems to be pointing true North and he’s someone that I could see myself rooting for.

I must say: my son and I loved Lucy Gray Baird and Maude Ivory. Baird is the tribute assigned to Snow who ultimately wins his affections. She’s feisty and tough and her pluck makes her incredibly endearing. The fact that she’s a musician and we could read and imagine her songs was also gravy. While we didn’t know many of the songs she sang, we certainly had a good time making up our own tunes as we read. Again, I would happily have read the Lucy Gray book instead of Snow’s story but it wasn’t to be.

Strangely, the book’s pace takes off to the races for the last 20%. When you’ve already broken 350 pages, I’m not sure what the rush is to wrap up…but it definitely felt like Collins was in a hurry. There’s more action in the last 50 pages than in the first 150…some satisfying, some not so much. Without spoiling too much, Lucy Gray’s denouement was not what we thought it would be and we were pretty disappointed. The way the rest of the story wrapped up with a neat bow was somewhat confusing and dismaying. I still couldn’t wrap my head around how the Snow at the end of The Ballad turned out to be such a heinous individual in time for The Hunger Games. The seeds were sown but I’m not sure what made them blossom.

On the whole, I’m glad we read The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. I would have always wondered what we were missing if we hadn’t. If you too are a Hunger Games series lover, you can’t miss reading this back story and putting together some of the pieces of Panem. Just bear in mind that it might not be the exact same thrill you are used to from Collins!

Book Review: In West Mills by De’Shawn Charles Winslow – 5 stars

I can’t begin to tell you where this book came from or how I got my hands on it but I LOVED IT! Definitely my favorite book of the year so far! The characters and the story are both so compelling and real…you feel like you know Knot, Otis Lee and their friends and family from the very beginning.

In West Mills by De’Shawn Charles Winslow has (as far as I can tell) flown under the radar for book buzz and that, in my opinion, is a damn shame! Set in a rural North Carolina town, we meet Azalea (Knot) Centre and get drawn into the story of her loves, friendships and failures. The book follows her and most of her townspeople for over 5 decades and we get to watch the way a story in a small town plays out.

Knot is by no means perfect…early in the story you will realize that she has a serious drinking problem…but she is who she is and that’s believable and lovable. The endearing relationships she develops with men and women in her community and the secrets they choose to keep from and for each other will keep you turning the pages to see who will thrive and who will falter when all things come to light (Because you absolutely have to believe they will, right? No secret ever stays secret forever!)

Knot and may of her compatriots will make you want to scream at times…whomp them upside the head and say, ‘What are you THINKING? Don’t do THAT!’ but you’ll see the rationale and life behind all of their decisions. I grinned like a fool during many of the exchanges between characters…they are so raw and so real. Although the characters are mainly Black, some of the interactions remind me so much of my Appalachian-stock family that I couldn’t help but shake my head!

Winslow knows from what he writes…I have no idea what his background might be but there’s no way to write such intriguing and believable characters without some experience of their world. He writes women just as well as men and I really admired that…I’ve encountered many books where women are props or plot movers for the male characters. That’s never the case in West Mills.

Although the Knot and Otis Lee’s stories end after many, many years of life…I would relish the opportunity to see what Winslow could do with a book about the next generation in West Mills. Regardless of what he decides to focus on in his next book, I’ll definitely be lined up to get my hands on it. I miss the town of West Mills and all of its endearing inhabitants and desperately want Winslow to draw me in that way again!

Book Review: I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott – 3.5 stars

I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott came highly recommended by several friends and, as a short, easy to carry paperback, is a book that I decided to read in paper form while sunning in the backyard and in bed at night before sleep. I definitely don’t regret having read it…as another recovering perfectionist, I definitely found some tidbits that resonated with me. I wasn’t completely knocked-out though…I was expecting more of a ‘hit you in the heart or funny bone’-type of essay collection (think Glennon Doyle) and these essays were a bit more cerebral (and neurotic) than I had imagined.

Nonetheless, Philpott paints a picture of her life growing up that is both charming and anxiety-ridden. She was clearly a little girl that grew up with very high expectations for herself and they show. I’m not sure she’s disabused herself of this tendency as an adult. In full disclosure, I must say that, as someone who also has those tendencies, I may have been uncomfortable because they hit too close to home but engaging in someone else’s anxiety and dissatisfaction in their life isn’t where I like to spend my time. I found the parts of the book where she wasn’t taking herself quite so seriously (see ‘lobsterman’) most enjoyable.

As I mentioned, I read this book in paperback but I think the audiobook may have been interesting. My understanding is that Philpott reads it herself and those audiobooks often appeal to me just because they are so authentic. Perhaps hearin Philpott convey her own story would have made me feel a bit more empathy for her situation.

Overall, if you are looking for a shorter book (288 pages) and/or love essays and/or really want to dig into what perfectionism feels like from the inside…this may be your book! If you’re looking for a ‘laugh out loud’ funny romp or a ‘hit you in the feels’ kind of read, you may want to take a pass.

10 Great Books Waiting on My E-Reader – September 28, 2020

Oooh…I have some GREAT new titles to tell you about that I’m really looking forward to! I can’t wait to wrap up my current list so I can take these books on! I’ve started Untamed and Hamnet and am loving both of those…click over to my list on bookshop.org to grab your copy or read more about my thoughts!

I’ll be putting out more and more individual reviews in the coming days and adding them to a list of Books I’ve Reviewed in 2020. Keep an eye out for both of those things. In the meantime, however, enjoy this look at what’s coming up! What’s on your TBR? Is your physical TBR different from the one on your e-reader? Audiobooks? Let me know in the comments!

Middle Grade and YA: What’s On My Nightstand? September 28, 2020

I really do love Middle Grade and YA novels and, right now, my nightstand is chock full of titles that I can’t wait to get to! Today’s list contains ten titles that are as varied as they are exciting: everything from a more serious YA look at gender identity and teen love to a fun-filled romp of an adventure to save grandpa! None of these titles are to be missed…I’ll read a few with my son but most of them I’ll devour on my own.

There’s something to be said for the quick, sweet satisfaction of a pithy Middle Grade title. YA titles too seem to serve as palette cleansers for me between slightly heavier adult reading. Do you read Middle Grade and YA? Do you read them alone or with a young person? Are you hoping to recommend this list to young people you know or keep it all for yourself? I’d love to hear more about your ‘younger literature’ reading habits in the comments. I can’t be alone in loving to read new and exciting titles for the younger set!

YA Book Review: It Came From the Sky by Chelsea Sedoti – 4 stars

As many of you who follow my blog regularly already know, I read a lot with my 12-year-old son. He’s a very advanced reader and we’ve been reading together since he was a baby. These days, he’s usually reading something on his own, something for school and something out loud with me. It Came From the Sky is a book that he chose from my ARC collection (Thank you, Sourcebooks!) to read as his ‘choice’ book for 8th Grade Enriched English. I usually try to read along (seperately) so we can discuss the book together and so that I can spot any tricky topics or confusing bits that I might need to help clarify. Most of the time, I must admit, I enjoy the books he chooses. Occasionally, I don’t enjoy the school-assigned books (I’m thinking Call of the Wild and Treasure Island here…call me a philistine!) but between the great characters and the emotional content in the Middle Grade and YA selections he makes, I’m generally pretty pleased to read along with him.

It Came From the Sky did not disappoint. I had previously read Chelsea Sedoti’s As You Wish on my own and found myself charmed and intrigued by her work. I wasn’t surprised to find the It Came From the Sky was similarly intriguing and contained lots of lovable characters and surprising plot points.

In general, It Came From the Sky focuses on two brothers, Ishmael and Gideon, who find themselves the masterminds of biggest hoax ever played on their town. Their family, Mom, Dad and sister, Maggie, are all portrayed as part of the story in different ways and each has a unique story trajectory that both contributed to the overall plot and stood alone in keeping me interested in this amusing book.

A few of my favorite things about this YA novel:

  1. Gideon is portrayed as a gay, science-minded junior in high school who probably registers somewhere on the autism spectrum. The great part about his character, however, is that neither his sexual preference nor his neuro-atypicality, while germain to the story, are treated as particularly noteworthy. That’s just who Gideon is. The fact that he has a boyfriend was actually so minimally highlighted at the beginning of the book that my son (who had never heard the name Gideon before) assumed heterosexuality and thought he was a girl for a couple of chapters.
  2. The Hofstadt family feels real. Mom and Dad have inherited some money and a family farm and aren’t pressed to have careers outside of the home so Dad stays home with the kids while Mom is incredibly involved in a multi-level marketing business/scheme. The dynamic that occurs between them and between them and their children is believable, heartwarming and amusing. It didn’t surprise me at all that, in the midst of this major hoax, Mom and Dad are aware that Gideon and Ishmael are in over their heads but refuse to acknowledge the situation to ‘teach them a lesson.’ I could relate to that kind of parenting and loved Sedoti made that editorial choice.
  3. This is primarily a story about two brothers but the women are not afterthoughts in this story. Sister Maggie has her own basket of cats that she is wrangling throughout the story (much to her brothers’ surprise) and Gideon’s closest friends Cassie and Arden are strong, determined young women who are very different in their approaches to life. Their relationships with Gideon as well as their ‘stories’ outside of his hoax are integral to the plot and to the ultimate resolution of Gideon and Ishmael’s big mess!
  4. This story is told in an interesting format: journal notes, online stories, blog comments, etc. make the story move along quickly and kept me intrigued and entertained by the whole cast of characters.
  5. There’s a little folk tale that runs underneath that main plot and ties the whole thing together. It never took my attention away from the story of Gideon and Ishmael but it left me smiling at the end when I saw was Sedoti was able to do!

The book is 452 pages start to finish but I was flabbergasted when I actually went back to look up that number. It reads so quickly – very short chapters punctuated by interviews, text messages, etc. keep it moving and the plot thickens with every page you turn.

While it may never qualify as ‘serious literary fiction,’ there’s something to be said for an interesting, amusing story told in such a way that you come to care about the characters and the story’s outcome. I highly recommend this book for young men and women who are looking for a fun romp of a read that will leave them amused, educated and feeling satisfied at the end of the book! And, if you happen to be the parent of one of those young men or women, by all means, read along! You won’t regret it!