Candlewick Press September 2011
Illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott
WHO HAS WHAT! All About Girls’ Bodies and Boy’s Bodies — a nonfiction picture book for children—is the first book in a four-book series illustrator Nadine Bernard Westcott and I are creating for young children. I wrote this book to answer young children’s delightful, thoughtful, and often non-stop questions about their own bodies and about how girls’ and boys’ bodies are the same and are different—questions that are seemingly simple, but often not easy to answer. And I wrote it because parents everywhere, along with educators and librarians, health professionals, we constantly asking me when I was going to write a book for our youngest children. And that singing “Heads and Shoulders, Knees and Toes,” while fun, does not have all of the information children need to know to have good and positive feelings about themselves and their bodies.
This first book in our series features conversations between siblings Nellie and Gus, a read-aloud text that offers young children fascinating and straightforward information, and Nadine Bernard Westcott’s pitch-perfect art that chronicles Gus and Nellie’s family outing to the beach. The book is full of fun and fascinating information as they learn about their amazing bodies.
This is a straightforward presentation, as told through simple exposition and the dialogue of a young girl and boy who are going to the beach for the day. As the youngsters chat with one another about their similarities and differences, readers are greeted with visually appealing cartoonlike drawings that depict an array of people in various family groupings. As the two children change in their separate cabanas, arrows point to and name the parts of their bodies that distinguish them as male or female. A dog (of the same sex as the child) has crept into each child’s cabana so its parts are labeled, too. Correct terminology is used, e.g., vagina, scrotum, penis, ovary, uterus, but Harris does not delve into how these body parts function, and she doesn’t address the reproductive process. The book serves as a great way to introduce male and female body parts for anyone not used to discussing or naming them. For a more comprehensive look at body parts, reproduction, and birth, check out Harris’s It’s Not the Stork! (Candlewick, 2006).
— Maggie Chase, Boise State University, ID, School Library Journal (starred review)
“A family outing to the beach provides the opportunity for a discussion of the similarities and differences between boys and girls.
In a conversation between a pair of mixed-race preschoolers securely strapped in their car seats, Nellie’s play on the words “everybody” and “every body” leads Gus to wondering about body parts. Their beach visit provides an opportunity to see a variety of people and puppies, to itemize all the parts that boys and girls and dogs have in common (head, cheek, belly button, tummy, toes, etc.) and learn about those that are different. Harris (It’s Not the Stork!, 2006, etc.) matter-of-factly combines common childhood language—“opening where poop comes out”—and anatomically correct terms such as vagina, penis and scrotum. The children’s parents explain interior organs (appropriately placed boxes reveal what’s inside) while applying sunscreen. Some information is conveyed in text, some in speech balloons or labels. Westcott’s digital cartoonlike illustrations show different compositions of families representing a wide range of ages, races and nationalities. They include a very pregnant mother in a bathing suit, as well as, appropriately shaded by beach umbrellas, a woman discreetly nursing a baby and a man giving a bottle to his.
This much-needed title stands out for its comfortably familiar presentation of material adults sometime find difficult to share with young children.”
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Harris’ oft-challenged It’s Perfectly Normal (1994), It’s So Amazing! (1999), and It’s Not the Stork! (2006) each address a different age group of children. This newest outing aims for the youngest set yet (an injury is called “a boo-boo”) though most parents should plan to read the words aloud and offer clarification. As always, Harris’ tone is cheerful and confident, introducing an interracial couple and their two children as they hit the beach, repeating one message: “Every girl has a body. Every boy has a body. Every grown-up has a body.” The kids are not sure “who has what,” which leads to a series of short, clear explanations with little arrows pointing out each body part, whether they are the same (“cheek,” “chin”) or different. Changing into swimwear provides the opportunity to point out the primary physical differences: “[Girls] have an opening to the vagina, an opening where pee comes out, and an opening where poop comes out.” Unobtrusive X-rays show interior views, while the pet dogs are there for further anatomical comparison. Westcott’s bright digital illustrations keep the affair as breezy and non-shocking as possible — just as it should be. Expect the usual outcry, as well as the usual demand.
— Daniel Kraus, Booklist (starred review)
WHO HAS WHAT? has also been given an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Best Book Award in the Platinum category for two age groups — Preschoolers and Early Elementary School Years. The Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award represents the most innovative, engaging new products of the year.
You can read their review here.
The trusted, New York Times best-selling author of It’s Perfectly Normal presents a charming and reassuring picture book series for preschoolers.
Young children are curious about almost everything. Asking questions is one of many ways they learn about themselves and the world around them. Now, this unique series for our youngest children provides easy-to-understand facts and answers to their delightful, thoughtful, and often nonstop questions. Launching the series is WHO HAS WHAT?, a simple story following Nellie and Gus on a family outing to the beach. Humorous illustrations, conversations between the siblings, and a clear text all reassure young kids that whether they have a girl’s body or a boy’s, their bodies are perfectly normal, healthy, and wonderful. Authoring the series is Robie H. Harris, whose nonfiction books are known as the source for addressing kids’ questions about themselves, their families, and their friends. Nadine Bernard Westcott’s accurate and entertaining illustrations offer an inviting way for children to discover straightforward, fascinating information about themselves.
This is a great way to introduce your preschooler to their body and how we work inside and using the proper terms for the body parts. The illustrations make the topic fun and interesting. If your little one is curious then this book would make a great introduction for discussion and questions. It’s one of the first book I’ve seen that spell out for the younger set just what makes us girls or boys.
Thank you to the publisher and Shelf Awareness for sending this book to me.
I recently won a copy of Who Has What? All About Girls’ Bodies and Boys’ Bodies by Robie H. Harris and illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott. (Available September 13th, 2011. Or you can pre-order Who Has What now!)
I should really say that my girls won a copy. Since it’s more for them than me.
When my kiddos got home from school yesterday I gave them the book and said “Look girls, an author sent you another book!”
“Wow, what’s this one about?”
“Well, it’s about your bodies.”
They had homework to do and snacks to eat and kittens to torment so it wasn’t until this morning that they actually got around to reading the new book.
My oldest (age 7) read it first to herself while her sister (age 5) played at something else.
I watched and listened as she read. She laughed a couple of times, but not a squirmy or uncomfortable laugh, just a genuine kid laugh.
When she got to the end she couldn’t help herself and she read the last page out loud.
“Read it to me!” Her little sister demanded. So, to the table they went, book in hand, to read it again.
This time I got to hear my oldest read the entire book and watch both their reactions.
“Nope, we don’t have tails. Just dogs do.”
“Look, there’s where the pee comes out.”
“Yeah, and it’s the same on the puppy too.”
“And there’s the vagina.”
“Even on the baby.”
“Oh, and here’s the boy page. See, there’s the penis.”
When the girls were finished, before they could start again (Yes, they read the book three times this morning.) I asked them what they thought of it.
My oldest said, “I liked it. I liked that there was a story and the comics parts for if you just wanted to read that.”
“And what did you think about the information?”
“It was good. But it wasn’t boring like just, ‘Here’s this part and that part’. It was fun.”
“Was it an embarrassing book?”
“Would you read it to a friend? Or with some friends?”
“Yeah, Mom. It’s great. And some of my friends might not know this stuff, and they probably should.”
Then I asked my youngest. She loved the book too, especially the “comics” (The illustrator and author have conversation bubbles on every page that really enhance the book as you go along, adding real kid thoughts to each page. They also have great pictures with the correct body parts pointed out – everything from noses, eyes, arms, hand, tails (on the puppy), to those couple of bits that set us apart.)
She didn’t think it was embarrassing at all either.
When I asked her what she thought about the information she just looked at me like I was crazy. “Mom, this is a fun book about boys and girls.” As if a fun book can’t also be teaching her something.
What I loved about the book was that it really emphasized how much boys and girls, men and women are ALIKE. It showed dads and moms feeding babies. Sure, one has to use a bottle, but he can still feed the baby. It showed both parents being, well, parents. It talked about how all kids, boys and girls “like to catch frogs, swing high up in the air, ride scooters, and make lots of noise.” It talked about how we all have belly buttons, fingers, toes and nipples. It talked about all the ways we are the same.
Then, it talked about the couple of ways that we are different, and what those differences mean – that some of us are male, and some of us are female. (Though, now that I think about it, the author never used those words… It was always baby, girl, woman and baby, boy, man.)
This is NOT a sex-ed book for kids. Sex is never mentioned, not even when the topic of babies and becoming moms and dads comes up at the end of the book. This book really just answers one question – Who has what? And it does that very well.
This is an excellent primer for young children just starting to ask questions about their bodies (and their friends’, parents’, and pets’ bodies.) For older children Robie Harris has a number of other books like; It’s so amazing: A Book About Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families and for the pre-pubescent or those starting puberty there’s the absolutely wonderful It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex and Sexual Health. And, for the really confused kids out there, of which there are many, It’s Not the Stork: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends.
“No one knows my body better than me
It tells me “‘Let’s eat!’, it tells me ‘Go pee!’”
— Peter Alsop, “My Body”
“Lucky Trimble crouched in a wedge of shade behind the Dumpster. Her ear near a hole in the paint-chipped wall of Hard Pan’s Found Object Wind Chime Museum and Visitor Center, she listened as Short Sammy told the story of how he hit rock bottom. How he quit drinking and found His Higher Power. Short Sammy’s story, of all the rock-bottom stories Lucky had heard at twelve-step anonymous meetings — alcoholics, gamblers, smokers, and overeaters — was still her favorite.
“Sammy told of the day when he had drunk half a gallon of rum listening to Johnny Cash all morning in his parked ’62 Cadillac, then fallen out of the car when he saw a rattlesnake on the passenger seat biting his dog, Roy, on the scrotum.”
— the opening passage of the 2007 Newbery Medal-winning THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY by Susan Patron
“Authors of children’s books sometimes sneak in a single touchy word or paragraph, leaving librarians to choose whether to ban an entire book over one offending phrase.
“In the case of ‘Lucky,’ some of them take no chances. Wendy Stoll, a librarian at Smyrna Elementary in Louisville, Ky., wrote on the LM_Net mailing list that she would not stock the book. Andrea Koch, the librarian at French Road Elementary School in Brighton, N.Y., said she anticipated angry calls from parents if she ordered it. ‘I don’t think our teachers, or myself, want to do that vocabulary lesson,’ she said in an interview.”
— from “With One Word, Children’s Book Sets Off Uproar” by Julie Bosman, published February 18, 2007 in The New York Times
Fortunately, those teachers and librarians who, for four years, have shrunk away from teaching this vocabulary lesson, can now turn the task over to Robie H. Harris and Nadine Bernard Westcott. Harris, whose award winning book for tweens and adolescents, IT’S PERFECTLY NORMAL: CHANGING BODIES, GROWING UP, AND SEXUAL HEALTH, has sold well over a million copies worldwide since it was first published 17 years ago, has now crafted an essential and age-appropriate picturebook that provides an excellent human (and canine) anatomy lesson for preschoolers and younger elementary school students who might typically be curious about the similarities and differences between boys and girls.
While boys and girls are, for the most part, the same, here are the basic differences:
“Between their legs, girls, baby girls, and women have three openings. They have an opening where pee comes out, an opening to the vagina, and an opening where poop comes out.
“Boys, baby boys, and men do not have an opening to the vagina.”Between their legs, boys, baby boys, and men have a penis, a scrotum, and two openings. They have an opening at the end of the penis where pee comes out and an opening where poop comes out.”Girls, baby girls, and women do not have a penis or a scrotum.”
Harris and Westcott go on to explain (and depict through Westcott’s fun and loveable characters having a family day at the beach) how girls, baby girls, and women, exclusively, have a vagina, a uterus, and two ovaries, while boys, baby boys, and men, exclusively, have two testicles inside a scrotum.
In addition, so that librarians (worried about the vocabulary lesson attendant to THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY) don’t have to delve into the fact that all of these aforementioned body parts are similarly parts of girl dogs versus boy dogs, the young characters in the story note these similarities as well as point out some of the body parts (i.e. tails and paws) that are parts of dogs but not parts of people, or that (i.e. pinkies and elbows) are parts of people but not parts of dogs.
“Where is thumbkin? Where is thumbkin?
Here I am! Here I am!”
Speaking from the perspective of an early childhood educator who spent many years ‘on the floor’ with preschoolers and kindergartners, I can tell you that it must make quite an impression on young children when, after doing so many different stories, songs, and movement games that involve body awareness and body parts, and after talking about healthy muscles and bones and teeth, we suddenly freak out about discussing scrotums in the same matter-of-fact fashion.
Speaking from the perspective of a children’s librarian, WHO HAS WHAT? is an enjoyable and distinguished nonfiction picturebook that fills a significant need in children’s collections.
“What a great book to help small children understand their own bodies and those of others! The simple words and pictures will help parents answer young children’s questions clearly and comfortably.”
— T. Berry Brazelton, M.D., founder of the Brazelton Touchpoints Center, Children’s Hospital, Boston, and Joshua D. Sparrow, M.D., co-author with Dr. Brazelton of Touchpoints: Birth to Three and Touchpoints: Three to Six
“This is a completely delightful book for parents to enjoy with their children — it will answer questions, start conversations, and make everyone smile.”
— Perri Klass, M.D., professor of journalism and pediatrics, New York University, and director of graduate studies, Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, New York University
“Answering your children’s questions about the similarities and differences between boys and girls isn’t easy — that is, until Who Has What? came along. Written in a supportive, honest, and playful way, this book is the perfect springboard for important family conversations. Nadine Bernard Westcott’s whimsical drawings complement the text and enhance opportunities for even better family conversations.”
— Ellen Galinsky, author of Mind in the Making and president of the
Families and Work Institute