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Taking the Sting Out of the Birds and the Bees

By Nicola Smith on February 2, 2021 in News

Every animal does it. Photo: Janet McLearie

Clovelly local Dave Hartmann has recently released a new picture book with his friend Justin Sweeting exploring the wild realities of sex in the animal kingdom. The Birds and The Bees and Giraffes That Drink Wee is designed to make the topic of sex more approachable for parents and children.
Mr Hartmann, the book’s illustrator, explained that inspiration for the book came from necessity.
“As a parent, you have these classic moments where you wish something existed to help you, but it doesn’t. The idea was a product of a really awkward conversation I had with my son, and I just left it thinking, there’s got to be a better, lighter way to approach this,” Mr Hartmann told The Beast.
The book features Mr Hartmann’s beautiful botanical drawings done in fine ink and finished digitally. Each page features a poem about how a different animal procreates, along with the matching illustration. The words come from Justin Sweeting, Mr Hartmann’s childhood friend and a director of music festivals in Hong Kong.
The pair don’t focus on the mundane side of animal reproduction, but rather the weird and wonderful – think hippos spraying each other with poo and bees’ testicles exploding.
Mr Hartmann said they designed the poems and illustrations to make the topic fun and engaging for children.
“Often in life, things that are important but functional, like sex, are treated in a very factual way for kids, but I wanted to tackle the problem creatively,” he told The Beast.
“It’s about learning to speak their language, making it funny and silly. The moment you feel awkward coming to a conversation, your child feels that and knows the topic must be an awkward one.”
Telling the stories of the weirder side of the animal kingdom aims to show children that sex is a completely normal thing – every animal does it – but also that, compared to the methods of some animals, human sex isn’t too weird.
The book was published earlier this year by Boolarong Press, a family-owned publishing house in Queensland, and has received excellent reviews from bloggers and parents, as well as the kids themselves.
“The response has been really good, kids love reading the book and feel comfortable to talk about it afterwards,” Mr Hartmann said.
Mr Hartmann also believes that the book is perfect for parents feeling nervous about having the conversation with their children and can help give them a healthy understanding of sex.
“If you delay and delay conversations like these, you leave it to the playground and the internet for them to get their first impressions of sex,” he said.
“It’s different for every child, often age 8-9 is when they start wondering about things and it starts being talked about in school, but younger kids can also pick it up and enjoy it, and that lets them know later on that the conversation is open and safe.”
The Birds and The Bees and Giraffes That Drink Wee is a funny, light-hearted introduction to sex, available at Booktopia, Dymocks and all good book stores.