My cousin’s daughter just turned ten and I realized that now is the perfect time for a general book about how to take care of your body, with some light “here’s what’s coming down the pike” puberty stuff, but not so much as to overwhelm her if it’s not happening yet. (I asked my cousin and her husband if it was okay with them, of course, and they said yes.) With that in mind, I perused my library’s 612.66 offerings and pulled what looked like the best for review. In the end, I went with the American Girl book The Care and Keeping of You, but here are the other books I looked at and why I didn’t choose them:
Girl Power in the Mirror by Helen Cordes (1999). I like the overall message but it’s very much focused on body image and I wanted one that covered more topics. It’s also dated (in terms of appearance – the information’s fine though websites 15 years old might not still be around), and out of print (though alive and well at the library!).
Growing Up: It’s a Girl Thing by Mavis Jukes (1998). Again, in general I really liked this book, and even learned a few things from it! (Such as, specifically how bra cup sizes work – I’m sure I knew vaguely at some point but hadn’t thought about it in ages.) This book touches on topics like molestation (“Most adults will protect children and never harm them, ever… If someone tells you to keep a secret from your parent, it is a signal that the person may have done something wrong.” It’s not your fault, tell an adult, call the Child Help USA Hotline – all good things. If I were to tweak that section, I’d maybe explicitly say that the molester could be your parent, though I understand not wanting to freak out the vast majority of kids who can 100% count on their parents’ protection, there are always going to be kids who are molested by a parent and don’t know it’s not okay.
Jukes also talks about how, even once puberty starts, you’re still a kid for a long time, not a woman, which I liked. However, she spent a while describing watching her mom do all sorts of grownup body care in front of her, which made me squirmy. I’ve never watched anyone else change a pad – it sounds unpleasant and I’d never want to watch my mom do it, or bathe herself, or shave. But maybe that’s just me – if you’ve got a girl who’s really curious, and you’re not comfortable letting her watch, consider this book and she can be a voyeur all on her own. Again, though, this book is 15 years old and there are no website resources listed at the end (or any resources for quick reference, actually).
The Care and Keeping of You 2 by Dr. Cara Natterson (American Girl, 2013). Hooray, a puberty book that’s been updated! I had a little trouble determining if this was actually an update, or for older girls, or both (turns out, both). So I don’t think my cousin’s daughter is actually going through puberty yet, or thinking about sex or relationships, so this book seems beyond her at this point. But when it sounds like she’s thinking about those things, I wouldn’t hesitate to get her this. It can be hard to tell what ages these books are good for. The first book in this series (below) is billed as for “ages 8 and up” but some 8-year-olds are light-years away from needing this information. This book was billed in one places as for “ages 8 and up” and in another as “ages 10 and up,” but again, it depends on the reader. Some girls start menstruating early, and become sexually active early, and therefore would need this book at the lower end of that range, and some won’t need it until high school. Which leads me to…
The Care and Keeping of You by Valorie Schaefer (American Girl, 2013). This book goes through taking care of every part of your body from hair to toes, and emotional health as well as getting enough sleep. I would have liked more about emotional health, friendships, bullying, and the tendency of women to compete instead of creating an atmosphere of sisterhood, but this is a great overall book about all kinds of health and body maintenance, with a painless, non-scary look at the beginning of puberty. Bingo!