________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 31. . . .April 12, 2013


What Makes a Baby: A Book for Every Kind of Family and Every Kind of Kid.

Cory Silverberg.
Illustrated by Fiona Smyth.
Toronto, ON: ZoBall Press
(Distributed by Random House of Canada), 2012.
36 pp., hardcover, $16.95.
ISBN 978-1-60980-485-5.

Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 4-8.

Review by Valerie Nielsen.

*** /4



This is a story about how babies are made. The first thing you need to know is that you can't make a baby out of nothing. You have to start with something.

      What accompanies the author's introduction and takes readers through the remaining 32 pages are Fiona Smyth's lively, brightly coloured, non-gendered illustrations depicting human beings and the "something" (that is, the egg and the sperm) that begin the whole process. Silverberg describes the meeting of the egg and sperm as a "dance" wherein each partner tells the other stories about the body it came from. The story-telling dance is a neat little metaphorical device to suggest how the information stored in the DNA of each egg and sperm is shared and passed on.

As the author puts it:

     When the dance is done they are not two things any more. They danced around and shared so much that they became one brand new thing.

     internal artWhat Makes a Baby is described by the publisher as " ...a book for every kind of family and every kind of kid. It is a 21st century children's picture book about where babies come from that reflects the reality of our modern time by being inclusive of all kinds of kids, adults and families, however they came to be." Silverberg has certainly created an ultra inclusive story of baby making. In doing this, he has made a somewhat puzzling decision in using non-gendered illustrations of parents. Is he assuming that readers from the ages of 4 to 8 (the recommended audience level) are aware that ONLY female persons (or women) have eggs and that ONLY male persons (or men) have sperm? Some confusion might occur among young listeners who have not yet come to the realization that women produce babies while men do not. It is likely that a chat with the adult reader would take place at some point in the story despite (or even because of?) the lack of sexual detail in the illustrations.

     The basic facts of conception, gestation and birth are set out in simple and straightforward language, making it very easy for parents of all kinds to use the text as a springboard for discussion involving their own experience. Fiona Smyth's sprightly, cartoon-like depiction of people of every imaginable age, colour and gender are true to the intent of the author and will ensure that this little volume has plenty of visual appeal to young listeners.

     Free Reader's Guide for parents, sex educators and teachers is available here: http://www.what-makes-a-baby.com/readers-guide/. Such a resource might prove invaluable for those adults in making a decision to purchase What Makes a Baby. In the meantime, this colourful little book (which, by the way, can easily be read by most primary readers) fulfills its mission to give youngsters and adults a very good introduction to sexual discussion in a gradual, age-appropriate and unique kind of way. It would make a useful addition to an elementary or preschool library collection.


Valerie Nielsen, a retired teacher-librarian, lives in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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