Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Story of Me


The Story of Me, winner of the ECPA Medallion of Excellence Christian Book Award, is the first of four books in the "God's Design for Sex" series, all written by Stan and Brenda B. Jones. The authors' intent is to offer age appropriate tools that help parents be proactive teachers and counselors rather than reactive problem solvers. Starting the discussion early prevents having to re-teach errant lessons learned from other sources such as the media, classmates or friends.
This first book shows a boy with his family, a mom, dad and baby sister. He asks to hear his story, the way God made him. Readers listen in as a loving question and answer conversation takes place. The book is packed with information. Here is a basic list of what it teaches. Direct quotes are in italics.
  • Why are babies born? To be loved by their parents and to grow up and love God.
  • Who can have babies? "God wants only married people to have babies...Sometimes a mother knows she will not be able to give everything her baby needs. This mother might let another mommy and daddy adopt her baby."
  • How are babies made? God "took a little tiny piece of Daddy's body and a tiny piece of Mommy's body ... God put you in Mommy's womb, or uterus, inside her body." The text also explains: it takes about nine months; while in the mother's womb, the baby breathes and eats through the umbilical cord. This is why we have belly buttons.
  • How do babies get out of their mothers? God made the vagina "so it could stretch just big enough to let you out." But some babies could be in danger if born that way, so their mommies have an operation so they can be born safely.
  • Without the cord, how do babies eat? "Mother's bodies take the food we eat and make part of it into milk that comes out of our breasts. Our milk is the perfect food for a young baby!"
  • How and why are boys and girls different? Boys have penises, and girls have vaginas. "Only girls can become mommies, and only boys can become daddies ... God made all people to love God and make Him happy by obeying His rules." We make God happy when we love Him and love each other. We show our love to Him through obedience; we can show our love to each other "by hugs and kisses, and by taking care of each other."
  • Are all hugs and kisses good? No. "God does not want anyone to take love from you that you don't want to share." Our bodies are private. Mothers and fathers help bathe young children, and doctors may check our bodies, but those are the only exceptions. "Someday when you marry, you won't have to be private with your wife."
Joel Specter served as illustrator for this book. Using a slightly impressionistic style, his pictures offer realistic details, but are also intentionally vague where necessary. A boy's penis is shown twice: once in utero and again immediately after birth. In both cases, it's hardly noticeable and certainly not the focus of the illustration. A girl's vagina is shown just once, while her mother changes her diaper. Again, it's not the focus of the illustration, but it is visible. Also, one illustration shows the mother talking with her older son while breastfeeding her infant daughter. While it is obvious what she's doing, no inappropriate parts are visible.
What I Like: I greatly appreciate the concept. What I like the most is the parent guide at the beginning of the book. This part (5 pages long) grounds parents in the need for these conversations and equips them to initiate the conversations without being extremely uncomfortable. There is bound to be some discomfort, but thanks to this guide, it doesn't have to be severe. I also like the illustrations. The artist did a fantastic job with a sensitive topic by keeping the focus on the faces even when other body parts were visible.
What I Dislike: The content may be too thorough. I want my kids to have correct information, but I fear the repercussions of them sharing this information with their friends, which is bound to happen with preschoolers. They repeat everything and not always accurately! I'm not sure they need this much at this age. I think the same concepts can be taught without so many specific details. Also, this book caters to traditional families. Children with single parents or other nontraditional guardians may come away with more questions than answers.
Overall Rating: Very Good, but not for every family.
Age Appeal: 3-5
Publisher Info: NavPress, 2005; ISBN: 0891098437; Paperback; $9.99
Buy it Now from Christianbook.com for $7.99!
You may also purchase the entire series (four children's books ranging from ages 3 to 14) for $31.96.
Or buy this book at Amazon.com for $9.99.
Special Info: While my feelings are mixed about the children's books in this series, I STRONGLY recommend the adult companion: How and When to Tell Your Kids About Sex. It is a wonderful help in shaping our children's character and increasing their chances for victory in handling their sexuality wisely. You can purchase this book from Christianbook.com for $15.99 or from Amazon.com for $14.95.

2 comments:

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Kristina said...

I have to disagree with Tanya on this one. I think this book is excellent and has just the right amount of information. What is "too much" information?

It's fantastic to have a book that - unlike most books on sexual education - presents a biblical view of sexuality. The authors do a great job of satisfying my preschooler's questions about her body and other peoples' bodies without going into too much detail. They use the proper words ("vagina," "penis," and on the page about feeding the baby, "breasts") but don't go into detail about what those parts of the body are or what they look like; if your child asks for more information, it's not too difficult give him or her an age appropriate reply. (And I'd much rather my kids use the correct terminology than slang.)

I also appreciate that adoption is mentioned, that C-sections are shown as a possible way to be born (although only breech birth is given as a reason for a C-section), and that unwelcome touching is discussed.

The illustrations by Joel Spector offer just enough detail, showing a baby in utero without looking like a textbook illustration, for example, or offering a view of a baby being born that is realistic, yet not at all graphic. (No private parts are exposed and the hospital setting is not scary.) Even when discussing C-sections, Spector remains tasteful, showing only a mother laying in a bed showing a small part of her tummy with a little red line on it) to her son.

I agree that no book of this nature can be all things to all people. Moms who are unable to breastfeed, for example, may wish bottle feeding was briefly mentioned. Single parents might feel left out, too. But remember: This book tries to present a "this is the way God ideally wants it to be" view of sex. Allow your child's curiosity to guide whether you veer off into sub-topics.