Talking with kids about puberty and sexuality doesn’t come easily to everyone — myself included. So when my 8-year-old started asking questions, I headed to my local library, where I wandered the aisles searching for a book (or fifteen) to borrow. Titles like Growing Up Great and So That’s What’s Happening! were neatly stacked on the shelves, but I just didn’t know where to start, or what would be age-appropriate. Does this one explain enough? Will there be more questions than answers? Is he going to freak out? Am I?
With help from the children’s librarian I was able to choose two books to take home, where reading together — one of our favourite activities — was a natural place to start a conversation about the changes that would soon be happening.
While there are a lot of books about puberty available in bookstores, libraries, and online, figuring out which is best for your child can be a challenge. So to get you started, or to continue where you may have left off, we’ve asked friends, librarians, and been-there-done-that parents for their book suggestions. These titles can help address the questions and confusion that children may feel during what is a sensitive and sometimes anxious time, and help parents better prepare their children for puberty. Because all kids develop differently, any publisher age ranges are just a guideline; choose what works best for you!
Changing You!: A Guide to Body Changes and Sexuality
by Gail Saltz, 32 pages
A follow up to the popular and best-selling Amazing You!, this new book educates children with straightforward text and colourful drawings. Geared towards elementary school children, the book also covers reproduction and emerging sexuality and offers clear advice for parents. This was a great intro to learning about puberty and opened the door to more in-depth books. I also appreciated Saltz’s note to parents.
Boys, Girls & Body Science: A First Book About Facts of Life
by Meg Hickling, 32 pages
With information explained in a science-based and easy-to-understand way, this book is a good introduction and conversation starter about body parts and changes that boys and girls go through. The author is a registered nurse who has been teaching sexual education for more than 25 years and designed this book for young readers.
It’s So Amazing! A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families
by Robie H. Harris, 88 pages
Updated in 2014, It’s So Amazing is one of many sex education books written by this author and explains how babies begin, how they’re born, and answers questions that children may have about their bodies, love, sex, reproduction, and family. With comic book style images and interesting and child-friendly text, the book focuses less on puberty and more on where babies come from and a healthy understanding of their bodies. The book is aimed at children 7 and up.
Celebrate Your Body (and Its Changes, Too!): The Ultimate Puberty Book for Girls
by Sonya Renee Taylor, 174 pages
A body-positive guide for younger tween girls, Celebrate Your Body reassures and empowers girls as they enter puberty. The book covers breasts and bras, menstruation, healthy bodies, self-care tips, family, friends, and more. Older girls can check out the follow-up guide Celebrate Your Body 2: The Ultimate Book for Pre-teen and Teen Girls
What’s Going on Down There?: A Boy’s Guide to Growing Up
by Karen Gravelle, 144 pages
Easy to read and straight to the point, the updated edition of What’s Going on Down There explains boys’ puberty, body changes, and growing up. Not only about physical changes, the book also touches on emotional changes, puberty for girls, and prepares boys for responsible choices about sex. This guide was written in consultation with preteen boys, and the revised edition features new sections that cover body image and confidence, sexual harassment and consent, and safe social media usage.
The Period Book: A Girl’s Guide to Growing Up
by Karen Gravelle, 144 pages
Another best-seller, this book was written by Gravelle and her 15-year-old niece to help explain and answer all of the questions that young girls may have about their period. Besides covering the physical changes, the book also helps guide girls through the emotional and social changes as well as the related issues that come with puberty.
The Parent’s Guide to Puberty: Proven Parenting Tips for Talking About Sex, Body Maturation and Teen Anxiety
by Cath Hakanson, 160 pages
With more than 25 years of experience providing parenting advice as a sexual health professional and owner of the Sex Ed Rescue website, teen communication and sex education expert Hankanson offers parenting tips and honest advice. She shares how to talk with tweens and teens about topics like menstruation, mood swings and safe sex, and includes a puberty question and answer section to help parents and caregivers prepare for over 100 of the most-asked questions.
Ask the librarian
Emily Andrews, a librarian and mother to three boys has a stash of books at home for her inquisitive children. “Talking to kids about puberty has definitely come a long way since I was young,” she says. “Having three young boys at home, I want to make sure the conversations are as open as possible and covers more than just ‘the birds and the bees’. Instinctively, I searched my local library for resources to help me with this. There were so many titles to choose from.” Some of the books Andrews suggests are:
Guy Stuff: The Body Book for Boys
by Cara Natterson, 112 pages
“[This book] is written by a pediatrician and provides all the facts about body changes and how to take care of yourself,” Andrews says. A good introduction to puberty, the book covers growing hair in new places, acne, sweat, muscles, wet dreams, and more with lots of pictures and some humour. Natterson also consulted on the best-selling book The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book for Younger Girls.
Puberty Is Gross but Also Really Awesome
by Gina Loveless, 192 pages
“Puberty is Gross is a well written, informative book that really knows its target audience,” Andrews says. “With brightly coloured illustrations, humour, and informal language, it portrays the information in a really great way.” Covering puberty changes for both male and female bodies, the book also covers gender identity, breast development, acne, mental health, and tons more in a straightforward and inclusive way with scientific information, interesting studies, and tips from experts.
Wait, What?: A Comic Book Guide to Relationships, Bodies, and Growing Up
by Heather Corinna and Isabella Rotman, 80 pages
A graphic novel about puberty and sex for tweens and young teens that is inclusive of all genders, sexualities, and other identities. Among the topics covered are body image and puberty, sexual and gender identity, crushes and relationships, sexual feelings, and where to look for support. “If you are looking for an LGBTQ+ inclusive book, as well as covering relationships, social media and the messages it gives out about bodies plus boundaries/consent, then this is the book for you!” Andrews says.
For more resources and information on sexuality, visit sexandu.ca, which is the website of The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC), Canada’s leading authority on sexual and reproductive health, or visit caringforkids.cps.ca for topics surrounding kids and puberty, gender identity, and how to talk with teens.
Related read: Support for teens with eating disorders