Free Friday: What Makes a Baby by Cory Silverberg

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It may be the last Friday of classes for the semester, and having that difficult “birds and bees” discussion with children may be the last thing you want me to bring up for my “free Friday” topic, but What Makes a Baby–written by Cory Silverberg and illustrated by Fiona Smyth–is an absolutely worthwhile book to add to your children’s literature library. As the book states on the front cover, What Makes a Baby really is “a book for every kind of FAMILY and every kind of KID.”

The wonderfully inclusive language works to pare the explanation down to the essentials of what all children really do have in common regarding their origins: the combination of an egg and a sperm, which then grows into a baby in a uterus. The book assumes no more about the reader’s story and, in fact, poses these questions to the readers themselves. This allows adult readers to guide the conversation to talk about an individual child’s origins, such as in-vitro fertilization, adoption, birth with a midwife, cesarean section, or any other part of the child’s story.

The book also contains a great mixture of scientific explanation and beautiful celebration of creating life. In a striking move, Silverberg explains genetic material as a collection of “stories about the body the [egg or sperm] comes from.” This allows for a much easier understanding of these scientific concepts and extends the possible readership to a much younger age.

While the book absolutely needs supplementing with information about the child’s origins and answers to the child’s questions, it provides a strong backbone for an important conversation. I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to any parent or guardian looking for a way to have a conversation about reproduction that does not promote rigid understanding of gender, heteronormative definitions of relationships, or privileging of certain types of reproductive practices.

By Elizabeth Wheelock

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