Updated: Oct 23
(suggested) interest age: 10-15
(suggested) reading age: 10+
Illustration: David O'Connell http://davidoconnell.uk/
I don’t remember my folks ever sitting my sister and I down and giving us “the talk”, you know, the one about “the birds and the bees.” Although a part of me thinks it could have been useful, overall, I think I’m glad we managed to avoid all that! To be honest, back in the 90s you just didn’t talk publicly about sex, and certainly not with your parents!
I don't quite remember how I learned 'how things work' but I know one thing - it definitely wasn’t thanks to the sex ed lessons at school – they were hopeless! I’ve got some recollection of finding a very informative, if not slightly graphic encyclopaedia on the shelf at home and getting a real eye-opener!
Of course, you’ve got to learn about the 'biology' of it all, but there's a hell of a lot more to it than that. Unlike the dusty, old-fashioned books we had, this engaging, modern guide discusses a number of contemporary topics such as mental health, gender, social media, blended families, anxiety, catfishing and a whole host of other topics. There’s so much more to growing up than learning how a sperm and an egg come together to make a baby (but, yes, if you’re wondering, there are diagrams of those bits and bobs in there somewhere!)
I first saw this book in English, and when I heard Rily had adapted it into Welsh I was very pleased. It's important to note that this isn't just a book about sex. It contains information about loads of useful things related to growing up, and it talks about all the crazy changes that happen during adolescence - stuff like personal hygiene, relationships, sports, staying healthy, mental health, cyberbullying, friends, hormones, emotions and more... the list goes on!
Speaking from experience, boys quite often get bad rep for being 'childish' or immature when it comes to sex, but I think that's a bit unfair. Boys want to know about all these things, but they’ve got to be presented in a way that will appeal to them as readers. I think the layout of this book makes it quite easy to read.
I remember being very curious about sex and growing up from a fairly young age, (about 10 years ish I think) but I always felt I wasn't allowed to ask anyone or talk about it because it was weird or embarrassing. Thinking back, it’s a shame that I had to read books like this one ‘on the sly’ in the back of the library, instead of being able to borrow them and read them proudly. I know that my eleven-year-old self would have loved a handy guide like this. Generally, as a society, I think we are far more open talking about sex, gender and mental health issues that we used to be, and that’s a great thing.
Another great thing about this book is that, although aimed at boys, it also contains a section about girls too. It’s vital that boys understand how the changes affect girls too. Being informed about these things fosters understanding, empathy and respect.
For someone like me, who usually chooses to do other things over reading, a comprehensive yet entertaining guide like would be just the thing to persuade me to read. With its light-hearted style and humour, this means that the book doesn't feel like a boring PSE lesson. The author's tone is friendly and approachable too – he never preaches and doesn’t sound patronising. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
With any book that discusses sex and things, everyone will have a different view about age suitability. As a boy, former teacher and now a parent, I've always felt you’ve got nothing to lose from learning about these things as soon as possible (within reason!). Avoiding talking about things because you think they’re embarrassing is just asking for trouble. I think a lot of myths and misconceptions start by not talking about things. Far better to know the facts! Not everyone will agree with me of course, but I would recommend this book to boys between the ages of 10-15.
Summary: This is an informative and useful book, presented in an easy-to-read way with a casual tone. It’s a valuable guide for any boys’ keen to understand the changes to the body and how to gain confidence and to be proud of themselves. Growing up can be hard, but it's also an exciting time (it won’t be forever, I promise!). This book should be in every boy's Christmas stocking!