Kids + Teens

No Ta-tas or Pee-pees in Children’s Publishing, But Most of All, No Balls?


People I Don’t Want to See Naked: Jeez, there are lots. In fact, I think it’s almost everyone.

The discomfort factor in nudity is for me, as it is for most people, a matter of inappropriateness. Aside from private (extremely private) instances, there are just very few instances of nudity which you can witness in a socially acceptable way.

But of course there are exceptions. Small children running around naked: who cares? They have no conception of why clothes should matter. Nudity means nothing to them. Depictions of the human form in Art: no problem. About beauty rather than sex.

These public nakednesses are the only ones that do not give me an icky feeling. You, too? I thought so.

Which brings us to People You Don’t Want to See Naked People: children, right? Children… young enough that nudity means nothing to them?

Yeah, there’s the problem. Some people seem to take issue with young children seeing depictions of the human form in Art, in spite of the fact that (a) they’re small children and (b) it’s art. It’s like not letting children wander into the woods for fear they might meet a sculpture of a wolf.

This image here is from a book for children just that young– it’s kind of Richard Scarry meets Where’s Waldo. It’s a bestseller in 13 countries, but it almost failed to find a home in the largest children’s book market in the world–the U.S.–because of the two small representations of nudity-in-art that you can see below.


Yes, that’s right. Abstract ta-tas and an itsy pee-pee. That’s what the hoopla over censorship, American prudishness, and Boyds Mill is all about. Boyds Mill dumped the whole four-book series because the author wouldn’t change this image. Sheesh.

Children do not care about this kind of nudity. So guess what? These books have found a home here at Chronicle, and thhpppt to the people so terrified of overprotective parents that they won’t make a good book available to the public.

You’ll see an omnibus edition of the four books by Rotraut Suzanne Berner (Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall) on our list in Fall 2008, and kids are going to love it.

And the parents with a tendency to hyperventilate can take a deep breath and get over it.

Melissa Manlove

Melissa Manlove is a children’s book editor and, in her spare time, a bookseller.
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  • mamacita November 13, 2007 at 11:19 am

    I feel like I’m on a treasure hunt now — where is the “pee pee?”

    Looks like a cute book.


  • macati November 14, 2007 at 2:28 am

    how is it possible not to publish this book! kids love these kind of details… they usually giggle if we explore the images in an healthy and natural way. I can’t see anything wrong with these pictures… I even think that this prepares the kids for art and makes them want to visit an exhibitions, I don’t mean because of the nudity but because of the interesting faces the people have…


  • Melissa Manlove November 14, 2007 at 2:17 pm

    It’s on the teeny-tiny sculpture of the man on the pedestal to the right. 🙂


  • Carla Sonheim November 24, 2007 at 10:45 pm

    Thank you for publishing these books!


  • Von Allan December 5, 2007 at 4:06 pm

    Good on you guys! And I love this bit:

    “And the parents with a tendency to hyperventilate can take a deep breath and get over it.”



  • Eve Robillard January 12, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    Dear Chronicle–This Berner title looks delightful! I’m so glad you picked it up!
    Eve Robillard, Children’s Librarian & Writer


  • Julia May 28, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    Yay! This is what I – as a parent of a 4-year old – like to see! This looks like a very cute book.

    You know, I’m not that surprised about the problems the author has experienced in this country. After all, the first settlements in this country were mostly Puritans. It still makes me shake my head and sigh though.


  • Nicholas Taylor January 7, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    When I was a sixth grade teacher I took my students to the Oakland Museum of California each year. Before going in, I would coach them on how to react to the nudity. Rather than lots of giggling, I taught them to stroke their chins pensively and say, “Hmmm, very interesting.” It was so much fun watching my students explore the museum looking for the most “interesting” pieces of art they could find.


  • 789 January 15, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    I think that most books for kids should have no nudity, especially ones for older kids, however, as a single father who is desparately trying to peepee train his 3 year old twins, boy and girl no less…arrgghh…lol, I think that certain books for toddlers, such as ones for potty training and self bathing, should show them anotomically correct body parts. What harm could come out of a little child seeing a picture of a naked child using the potty or bathing? if anything it might make them want to do the same. Making peepee is just part of life, and it cant be done without a peeper or “ta-ta”.


  • mark April 14, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    It is the coolest site,keep so!


  • Mona June 10, 2012 at 1:17 am

    Melissa, I love reading your voice, and I love you presence on the web. I recently saw some follis from chron at Jacob Javier's here in NYC and I asked for you….this is Mona by the way. I love seeing your talents as a curator for children's stories!


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