The book that shaped Deb Tawna’s life…uh, this probably explains a lot

When I was two, my parents decided to give me a sibling.

I was intrigued by the idea and relentless with my questions. How would they get the baby? Where would it come from? How long would the whole thing take?

My parents dodged my questions at first. Then one day I was standing in line at a crowded Dairy Queen with my very pregnant mother.

“I know where the baby is,” I announced in my loudest voice, “But I need to know how it got there!”

My parents had a talk with the pediatrician, who agreed I was old enough to hear the truth. After researching the most age-appropriate tool for explaining sex to a two-and-a-half year old, my parents marched off to the bookstore and returned with HOW BABIES ARE MADE by Steven Schepp and Andrew Andry.

The book was a glorious ‘70s era staple designed to “aid parents in their answers, without going into technical detail or being too graphic.”

I loved this book. I carried it everywhere, devouring each pastel paper collage with the fervor most kids reserved for toys or candy.

There was the random pencil dot to show the size of an egg.

There was the bizarre looking flower.

There was the dog proudly displaying his junk.

There was the overly amorous rooster and hen.

I was fascinated by all of it. I couldn’t get enough.

“Mom,” I said, pointing to the chicken picture. “So that’s how it happened? Dad jumped on your back?”

Thankfully, my understanding of the subject has evolved slightly. I must admit though, my fascination hasn’t changed much. This may have something to do with why I write romance instead of technical manuals on quantum physics.

Lucky for me, I now get to write my own scenes with pencil dots and frisky chickens.

And if I’m ever unclear on any of the details, I have my handy reference manual.

Did you have a book like this when you were a kid? Do you remember yours as fondly as I do mine? Please share.

I’ll be busy studying for the love scene in my next book.

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This article has 28 Comments

  1. LOL! I still remember my DD’s reaction after we had “the talk” when I was pregnant with my son. After I gave a matter-of-fact explanation of the process, involving the egg from the mommy and the sperm from the daddy (cagily glossing over the delivery method of said sperm), DD says to me, “Boy, those sperms must be really good jumpers.”

  2. I had that book, too! Though my recollection of their explanation of the actual act is that the couple lies together all night long. Which actually sounds kind of nice.

  3. I got my book in about second grade. I don’t remember any animals, but I do remeber that the sperm wore a top hat and carried a cane.

  4. BWAHAHAHAHA OMG, Love it. *cries* Okay, I’m calm now.

    Uh, let me think. I can remember the first book I ever read was called The Firehouse Cat. I loved it because, well it was about cats, but if I delve further into my writing psyche, I think I loved it because the cat was doing something out of the ordinary. He wanted to be like a firehouse dog. He was a square peg trying to fit into a round hole (no sexual pun intended, but you can laugh anyway) and now that I’m writing, I find most of my characters are exactly the same. Except they have lots of sex and swear like sailors. Wow…I never really thought of it before, but I can see it all so clearly! Thanks, Tawna!

  5. My “chicken book” was the standard *Where Did I Come From?*, which my psychologist Dad gave me around third grade when he finally figured out that I thought babies came from Child Services (my sister was adopted).

    To this day, I like to think of sperm wearing top hats and bringing flowers to blushing eggs wearing earrings. And naked men are still a secret source of amusement.

    I also remember the answer to the question about why, if sex feels so good, don’t we do it all the time? The answer was, jumping rope feels good, too, but it tires you out. Most men, it seems, don’t buy this.

  6. OHMYGOD I REMEMBER THAT BOOK! And now I’m wondering about the artist who took the time to finely craft those images. “What did you do today at work, honey?” “I immortalized the family dog for a kid’s book!” “How wonderful! Can I see it?” “Umm… no.”

    I was obsessed with Watership Down as a kid. I’m weird.

  7. As a totally relaxed and enlightened parent I was ready to answer the question when it came. My son (then 4 yo) wanted to know about bees and flowers. “Well, you see…” I went on for a while and he looked increasingly puzzled. I tried to be more precise, but in the end he interrupted me:
    “But mom, where are the bees and flowers?” Which was what he had really asked about in the first place.

  8. Um… my dog Riley’s a little turned on by the brown-puppy picture. Is that wrong?

    I don’t remember how I got the scoop, but I’ve been answering my daughter’s questions as she asks them. She has it all down except how the sperm actually gets to the egg, and she doesn’t seem so interested in that part yet. She’s just obsessed by the sperm and egg, which she imagines as two cosmopolitan singles looking for love. She and my niece in fact spent a whole family dinner at a restaurant calling out, “I’m an egg! I’m looking for a sperm!” The two of them then perused the other tables remarking, “Oh! There’s a cute sperm!”

    Good times.

  9. I HAD THIS BOOK! This very one! My mom and her sister decided the best way to educate my cousin and I about sex was to put the sex books on the top shelf of the built-in bookcases. That way, when we were old enough to climb up the stacks like monkeys, we were clearly old enough to read the books cleverly “hidden” there.

    We also had “Where Do Babies Come From?” with two cartoon chubby people holding hands. From whence sprang my favorite description of sex of all time: “It’s kind of like a tickle–only better.”

    That’s some serious Tao of Sex stuff right there.

    Thanks for the snickers!

    – Liz

  10. HOW BABIES ARE MADE, written for parens and educators to use with children ages 3 to 10, is, simply put, a fabulous book re basic sex education (“the birds and the bees”). It’s the best. Forget about the others. My paents used it with me — I used it with my 2 kids — and my kids intend to use it when they have children. I know it was originaly published by Time Life Books in 1968 and that it stayed in print for some 35 years. It’s still available as an out of print or used book on many internet sites such as The book is as curret today as ever before, and ceratinly needed. I’m amazed that some publisher hasn’t reprinted it and offered it for sale!

  11. Tawna,

    I just came uopo your blog re the childre’s book HOW BABIES ARE MADE by Time Life Books and later by Little Brown and Company.

    I am the author of the book.

    Delighted you and others remember the book, although I must admit that after being in print for about 35 years (1968 to 2003) it has remained a big seller as a used and/or new book on many internet sites such as

    If you want to talk or if there’s any info you need, let me know.

  12. Tawna,

    I just came upon your blog re the children’s book HOW BABIES ARE MADE by Time Life Books and later by Little Brown and Company.

    I am the author of the book.

    Delighted you and others remember the book, although I must admit that after being in print for about 35 years (1968 to 2003) it has remained a big seller as a used and/or new book on many internet sites such as

    If you want to talk or if there’s any info you need, let me know.

    1. Wow!!! How exciting to have contact with the author of this book! This is one of those “I have arrived” moments in my writing life 🙂

      Thanks so much for stopping by (and for writing this book!)


  13. HAHAHAHAHA! Hysterical. OMG. My mother never saw any necessity for books about sexual intercourse, when I was a kid. She was all too happy to explain it to me in graphic detail, complete with her own diagrams and drawings! No wonder I’m so disturbed. Would have much preferred a book like this ;O)

  14. Tawna: Glad I was able to stimulate an “arrival” moment for you as a writer. I’m sure you’ll have many others. HOW BABIES ARE MADE wss originally published and in 1968-69 by Time Life Books and General Learing Corp. and distributed by Time Life Books (hardcover) & Little, Brown & Company (paperback). Beyond the US version, it was translated into some 30-40 other languages and was sold in many countries outside the US. Here it is 43 years later and the book continues to sell extremely well in the US. A fantastic story and unbelievble events surround the introductory years of HOW BABIES ARE MADE. Events that came at a time when sex education for youngsters was basiclly ignored at home and in school and more or less considered a “taboo” subject. It is the book that definitely brought sex ed for children out of the closet.

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