Top critical review
Mostly good, but flawed for girls
Reviewed in the United States on May 14, 2013
My three and a half year old daughter really enjoys this book. It's written in a style that's entertaining and easy to understand. I like that the authors have included many types of families in the illustrations, and have tried to combat gender stereotypes by discussing all of the similarities about what boys and girls like (both boys and girls like active play; both boys and girls play with dolls). However, there is one flaw in the book that bothers me as I read it to my little girl. In the descriptions of the external physical attributes of boys and girls, boys' external genitalia is named, while girls' is not. Boys are described as having "a penis, a scrotum, and two openings." Girls, on the other hand, are described as having merely "three openings." And while there are indeed a penis and scrotum visible in the picture accompanying the boy's description, in the girl's, the little girl resembles a Barbie doll with a smooth genital area and three dots representing her openings. The little girl has no clitoris at all, and just a hint of labial folds. I understand that a clitoris may have been a little tougher to draw than a penis, but to completely excise a part of female genitalia in a book about the topic? What is a little girl supposed to think about that part of her anatomy? According to this book, it shouldn't exist and doesn't have a name. But if you have a daughter, you know that she knows it's there. The first time we read this book, my daughter was confused and wondered if she had a penis, because she said she had a "bump like that" and pointed to the picture of the little boy's genitals.
Since my daughter still likes to read this book, and since I do like the rest of it, I choose to just add in the words when I read it to her. I read that sentence as "Between their legs, girls, baby girls, and women have a clitoris, a vulva and three openings." I point to the picture and say "her clitoris is here, just above the opening where the pee comes out" (which is how the urethral opening is described in the book). It's not a perfect solution, and while I understand the authors' intent to rely on very simple descriptions, it would be great to know the reasoning behind completely omitting a visible part of a girl's body. We're already so squeamish about girls' genitals, calling their genitalia their flower, their bits, their woo-woo... is it too much to ask that in a book about their bodies, visible female parts should be represented and named?