Book Review: A first book for kids about puberty and growing up.
A short overview of this book
So That’s What’s Happening by Gina Dawson is a book for younger children that talks about puberty and growing up, giving them the right amount of information.
If you are looking for a book that has more than just the basics but doesn’t overwhelm with too much information, then this book is ideal. It does talk about sexual intercourse though, which most books that target a younger audience do leave out. The emphasis though is on the fact that puberty brings change and that it can be a different experience for us all.
Sexual intercourse is talked about in this book.
What’s the ideal age for this book?
So That’s What’s Happening by Gina Dawson is ideal for children between the ages of 8 – 11 years of age.
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You can find more books like this in my extensive list of Sex Education Books for Children.
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Read the transcription of the video
So That’s What’s Happening! is a book about puberty and growing up for children eight to twelve-years-old.
Hi, I’m Cath Hak from Sex Ed Rescue. Sex Ed Rescue is the channel where I review sex education books and help you get more comfortable with talking to your kids about love, sex, puberty, and growing up.
So That’s What’s Happening! An illustrated guide to Your Changing Body is a book written by Gina Dawson and illustrated by Alex Mankiewicz. This book came out in late 2017, although I only found out about it the following year and it is fantastic.
This book was written for parents and sex educators looking for resources to teach puberty to a younger audience. After all, younger children around ten to eleven-years-old going through puberty is not unheard of. So, this book focuses on getting information out in an age-appropriate way.
Now, this book is very different from ones like The Secret Girls’ Book. When people think of sex education books for younger kids, they generally think of books like that. This book is set out like a magazine; there’s simple imagery, few words, and bright colours. Dawson’s book is closer to a story. The images are paired with the text, which there’s a lot more for you to read to your child.
Dawson does cover a large variety of topics in her book. While I look at the contents page, I’ll list some of the topics; how your body shape changes, how hair grows and becomes oilier, how you become smelly, and how you get pimples.
One of the big ones is eggs and sperm. For people with a vagina, it’s about becoming fertile and being able to hold a child. For people with a penis, it’s about how they’ll start producing sperm and eventually be able to ejaculate. Some more of the other topics are how babies are made, feelings, and many other things. To begin, the book talks about how everyone goes through puberty. You either are or will, and that’s normal.
The drawing then shows a group of feminine characters and their different body types. Each girl has a unique and very healthy body, which I love. One girl has fat rolls, one is skinny, one has low breasts, and one has higher.
There are also masculine characters who have different body types. Some being larger, some being scrawny and short. We also get different skin tones which is important in such a culturally diverse world.
I often talk to other parents in parenting groups on Facebook. Whenever I talk to non-white families, they often say they aren’t comfortable showing their kid’s a book full of only white children. Some even say their children won’t pick a book up if there aren’t any black characters.
In sex education, having that diversity is important. It makes it more relatable for children in minority groups.
There isn’t much information on what happens in the bodies. But, that’s okay! For younger children, we don’t need lots of details. Instead of going into hormones, it addresses the fears some children may have as they grow up.
For example, some people might have fat breasts. But eventually, they’ll grow out of it as their fat evens out. It also talks about how you’ll grow more body hair. Not just on your face but in other areas too.
I also know that lots of parents don’t like putting the expectation on their children to shave. That, just because you have body hair, you need to shave it off. As a parent, you can choose to have a conversation about removing body hair.
There’s a section on shaving in the book that can give you the chance to say, “Oh look, they’re shaving! Some people like to remove the hair and some people don’t. What I like to do is…” Or, have a conversation about how your child feels and thinks of it.
I also get lots of questions from parents with one or more daughters. Their main concern is if their daughter should shave since there’s a large social expectation around doing so. I suggest they do their research and have a talk about it.
While this book may not have lots of detailed information, they do cover a wide range. Dawson talks about how we start to sweat more, and not just under our armpits. We’ll also get pimples and zits, but they’ll eventually go away.
Now, I really like that it doesn’t bring up sex straight away. As a parent, I don’t like diving into the topic at the start. I like slowly building up to it and making sure my child is comfortable first. Kids, I think, are probably fine with having it straight up. To them, it’s just another thing adults do. It doesn’t interest them.
Now we begin to talk about eggs and sperm. The book talks about how we create them and how they affect us. There is a simple diagram of a penis on the page, but it isn’t very realistic. Mostly, it just talks about how people’s voices become deeper because of it.
Girl genitals are shown first. There’s an illustration of a person with the female organs along with descriptions and names for different parts. I personally love the way Darwin uses words to describe in her book.
Then, it talks about boy genitals. The parts and different uses are listed to the side, which again, I love the wording. One thing they talk about is also how penises come in different sizes and there is diversity.
The description for sexual intercourse is lovely. Instead of just talking about the physical factors, the penis going into the vagina, it talks about the emotional side too. Sex isn’t just about experiencing pleasure, it’s a decision. You need to choose if you want to show your love to someone like this, or if you want to have a baby. How both partners feel about it are important too.
Then we move onto periods. What happens, what they are, and how to look after them. There’s also information on what happens to people with a penis during puberty. They’ll start to get erections, be able to ejaculate, and have wet dreams. After all of that, it also talks about the importance of body image and seeing yourself in a positive light.
Independence is another topic. As you get older, you might start becoming more confident, want to go out more often, and do things on your own.
Dawson also talks about feelings which is important. You might start seeing people in a different way, or even get a crush on someone. Talking about sexual and romantic feelings in these books for younger kids is important. We need to start normalizing this idea that it’s alright to feel sexual attraction or start having feelings for your friends.
At the end, it sums everything up by telling the reader that they will be fine. We all go through puberty. We all grow up and at the end, you’re still the same person. You’re just that grown-up version.
So That’s What’s Happening! Is a lovely book. It makes for a great alternative to the Secret Girls and Secret Boy’s books. Another book that is great for sex education is the American Girls series.
But this book is more like a story. Not like a novel, like Cinderella or Snow White, but it does have lots of information. This is for younger children. If you want a book that is age-appropriate, has lots of information and has a positive message, then this book is perfect. There is a very lighthearted message
It doesn’t, for example, suggest that periods will be the worst thing ever. I honestly don’t like the books that make fun of or shame periods instead of talking about them in a respectful way.
This book is very respectful.
As a parent, I like it because it’s not shameful. It’s not going to perpetuate the myths that puberty is the worst thing that happens in your life. It doesn’t do that at all, which I believe is helpful. Children often hear a lot about how horrible and terrible puberty is. So, having a book like this helps debunk some of these negative ideas.
Anyway, I hope that helps, cheers.