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Bellybuttons Are Navels by Mark Schoen
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Bellybuttons Are Navels

by Mark Schoen

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I'm trying not to be a weirdo about this one, since kids clearly need to know that their penis is called a penis and it's only ever gonna be weird if adults are weird about it, but there are some details on this one that continue to throw me, and I don't think I'm so much a prude or a pervert or anyone with anything to hide, so maybe some of this is legitimately ill-conceived? Like, it's a brother and sister in the bath and they talk about all their parts and their names. Fine, good concept, although it occurs to me that this is the kind of thing that will be learned as a matter of course if your parents are all right (my 19-month-old son definitely already knows where his beanis is). (Oh, and furthermore, let us briefly digress to examine the difference between the "proper scientific names"/"babyish baby names" axis and the "technical jargon"/"regular colloquial speech axis. When I was a kid we called our genitals, male or female, our "pippi,' because my mum was Austrian and unfamiliar with the various cutesy-shading-into-awful terms native North Americans use--I have heard instances of "doodle" and also "flower", the latter for girls of course, ew, ew, and we do not need to be reminded of George W. Bush using "hoo-hah," or was that just George W. Bush as envisioned by Ana Marie Cox I can't remember now. [As a digression from a digression let me also note that I am old enough to remember my mother calling her breasts her "titties," although that ended when her English got better and she realized that her Canadian friends were all hippie sleazebags.] Anyway, using the proper term is clearly superior in that instance but are we really going to have a problem with Emmett calling his butt his butt as opposed to "the buttocks, where the anus is"? It's an umbrella term covering BOTH BUTTOCKS AND ANUS and that is okay unless you are going to argue that it is somehow subpar to refer to e.g. your hand as your hand and not your "palm," which is where your "fingers" are attached. Okay, digression stop.) But the choices made seem a bit questionable--the kids start with their eyes and nose and then zero in too too quickly on the genitals in a squickily forced-seeming manoeuvre--you are forced to acknowledge that many parts of the body were left out completely, and the overall effect is that the bath and the eyes and the noses were just a flimsy pretext so we could talk us some proper names for genitals, and that is, again, in a way a worthy goal but also one that we will expect to be handled in the normal way of things: parents who use the proper terms will teach their kids the proper terms, and those who do not will not buy this book. And that's the point at which the various representative choices that you ignored and presumed innocent or incidental start to feel kind of weird too: the fact that the boy kid has kid features and the girl kid has exaggerated pouty lips and redder cheeks than the boy and sweaty hair tendrils and seems to be wearing makeup (fine, it was the seventies and they had certain ideas about how to make a girl look like a girl and we can expect those approaches to be relied upon heavily when the book is about two naked kids in the bath, but it is a somewhat uncomfortable thing); the fact that the girl points out her clitoris which maybe I am wrong (and I do not want to spend more than the bare minimum of time googling information about prepubescent girls's clitorises) but isn't that essentially an adult sex organ that does not typically protrude or appear frankly in children? I don't know. This book makes me feel like either I'm a weird creep for feeling this way or like it made me feel like a weird creep illegitimately by adopting questionable representative strategies in the effort to teach kids words they will already learn (or not learn) on their own, as outlined above, and not acknowledging the way it was coming across like a weird seventies dad in a bathrobe who smokes weed with his kids and mixes their friends cocktails in the hottub because he wants to be a chill Aquarian parent, damn the kids' wishes and/or attendant discomfort.

(Update: not the seventies, book was published in 1990.) ( )
3 vote MeditationesMartini | Sep 19, 2015 |
This book may have a little "too much information" for some people. This is not a book for teachers, this is a book for parents to share with children if they wish. ( )
  patsila | Feb 6, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0879755857, Hardcover)

Two young children learn the names of human body parts, including sexual anatomy.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:18 -0400)

Two young children learn the names of human body parts, including sexual anatomy.

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