Monday, November 6, 2017

Two new books to prepare your kids for (shudder) teenage years and adulthood. Here's "Growing Up: Girl Talk / Guy Talk" by Lizzie Cox and Damien Weighill (QED Publishing)

As our daughter grows up at what seems like a ridiculously rapid rate there are so many questions that my wife and I, as first time parents, have to field in the process of ensuring she has an awesome and happy life, stays safe and healthy and avoids some of the pitfalls of pre-teen and teenage life.

The two new titles from QED, "Growing Up: Girl Talk / Guy Talk" by former Teen magazine editor Lizzie Cross, with illustrations by Damien Weighill looked like they might be a huge help at first, but the more we dug in, the more we still think there's a gigantic gap in the market for something for middle graders.

At 9, Charlotte is still a bit young for the book which is advertised as covering the 9-11 age group though I'd probably say it's more suitable for 9-13 and definitely the higher end of that scale (again, with any age groupings in books there's a huge, huge range of diversity and granularity on what kids can cope with at certain ages and factors such as older / younger siblings, upbringing, cultural influences etc all contribute to that in their own way).

The books are fantastically presented for sure, with attractive and simple illustrations that really do suit the pitched age group perfectly. The issue there is that the often cartoonish style doesn't lend itself well when you start to discuss physiology, or if you want to go into a little more detail (without grossing kids out too much and becoming like a biology text book). So when you start discussing male / female private parts, a cartoonish approach falls a little short of what's required, particularly when the diagrams don't always correspond directly to what's being talked about in the text.

There's also a lot of advice here that feels like it's being delivered in more of an authoritative tone than perhaps it should be. My wife took issue with one section talking about shoes in the "Girl Talk" book for example, where flat-soled ballet pumps and Converse All-Star style sneakers were recommended over heels, when all three are actually fairly harmful to your feet in different ways (with no mention of getting shoes properly fitted) perhaps we're a bit over-sensitive to that issue as Charlotte has problems with her feet all the time).

There's no medical endorsement and the accompanying press release didn't detail whether the book was given the once over by a health professional, as it should have been as some of the advice tries to sound like it's more expertly informed than it actually is (though we'd be happy to put a correction in here if that WAS the case, certainly nothing in the book or the press seemed to indicate this and I couldn't find much more about the author to back that up either).

The tone of the book and the presentation is quite quirky, humorous and at times this is fine, at other times it grates when dealing with particular subjects that are serious and weighty. There's way more in the book than just talking about sex and sexuality (and there really needed to be something in here about the age of consent way earlier than page 36 surely?) A lot of this was completely lost on Charlotte because she's that rare thing nowadays, a kid who has no devices constantly to hand, and no online presence so most of the stuff about cyber-bullying, proper use of devices and the whole online smorgasbord of pitfalls took up more of the book than we needed. There is a bit more to the book than just sex and online stuff, but even Charlotte herself took a few fleeting looks through before declaring it was too old for her (and c'mon, what 9-11 year old needs advice on plucking hair or waxing?!)

I hate sounding negative about the books as they do set out with the best of intentions and their heart in the right place, but overall we came away disappointed, and felt that this book relied too heavily on anecdotal (though 'real life') cases and answers, a bit like seeking advice from a blog or magazine rather than something written by physical and mental health care professionals, professional counsellors or youth workers.

So our quest continues. We are still searching for that 'perfect' book that covers the sort of issues both Girl Talk / Guy Talk breeze through, but in more authoritative and detailed ways. If you think you know of such a book, please drop a comment below because we'd love to take a look at it.

"Growing Up: Girl Talk / Guy Talk" by Lizzie Cox and Damien Weighill is out now, published by QED Publishing (Kindly supplied for review).