Puberty: Coming to a body near you!

The following book review first appeared in abridged format in the June 2015 issue of Island Parent Magazine (in print and in pdf on their web site).  I’m presenting the unabridged version here, as this book is an important tool for both parents and children.


Cover illustrated by Elisabeth Steinmeyer
Cover illustrated by Elisabeth Steinmeyer

Puberty, that tumultuous time of big changes, happens to every child.  How do we parents prepare our children for it?

There are many books on the subject, much Internet advice, and many variations on The Talk.  Now there is a new puberty book to add to the mix.  Puberty:  Coming to a body near you! is a puberty workbook written by local certified sex educator Kerri Isham.

Ms. Isham has a Bachelor of Physical Education and Bachelor of Education from Ottawa University.  She has taught in School District 69 for fourteen years; for ten of those years, she was a Sexual Health Educator at the middle school level.  I asked Ms. Isham what her goal was with the writing of this book.  She said:  “The goal of this book was to have kids and parents interact with each other, while discussing a topic that is difficult for some to talk about.  I wanted kids to be proud of their body changes and to be able to discuss these changes with confidence.  Puberty is a rite of passage and should be celebrated.”

This book is different than most books about puberty, in that it is interactive. When asked why a workbook, Ms. Isham replied, “I chose to make this a workbook instead of a book, because there are a lot of great books out there already. I couldn’t find a workbook, and I know some kids have a hard time reading a lot of text. This book is accessible for all learners.”

Despite containing thorough information on a variety of puberty-related topics, Puberty:  Coming to a body near you! does remain accessible.  Information is broken up into sections, many of which have accompanying worksheets to go with them.  (And, yes, there is an answer key at the end of the book.)  The book is filled with illustrations, pictures, and even drawing opportunities.

Three parts of this book stand out as favourites for me, besides the worksheet aspect of it.  First, there are illustrations of what different genitalia look like.  Media bombard us with a lot of images, but these images are so homogenized we tend to have a narrow view of what is “normal.”  Not all breasts (or anything else) look alike.  These illustrations help to normalize this unique-ness.  Second, I like that there are sections about gender and about sexual attraction.  Third, I am ecstatic that there is a section about consent.  I don’t recall any talk about consent when I was learning about puberty.  It was all about the changes and reproductive capabilities.  Consent is a talk as vital as any talk about physical and emotional changes.

Given that puberty can be a difficult topic for parents and kids alike to discuss, I asked Ms. Isham what the most important thing people don’t know about puberty is.  She said, “Easy…there is a WIDE range of normal. Being a unique being brings richness to the world.”

Overall, I love this book.  My daughter is a little young for it yet, but the time is coming soon; Ms. Isham’s website recommends this book for grades 3 to 7.

Kerri Isham also facilitates workshops on Vancouver Island about sexual health and media savvy.  She has workshops titled Body Smart (three different workshops for parents, divided by children’s age groups), Navigating Girl World:  Effective Strategies for Parenting Girls (I took this one a couple years ago, and it was great), Boxed In – Sexism and Gender Stereotypes, and 6 Must Have Conversations with Teens.  If you’re interested in Puberty:  Coming to a body near you! or any of the workshops, check out http://powerupworkshops.ca/ or e-mail powerupworkshops@gmail.com.

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