A 21st century guide to the birds and the bees

We’re all made of the same stuff (an egg and a sperm) but how our individual story begins can vary and never more so than over the past few decades – IVF, sperm and egg donors, artificial insemination and surrogates are part of the modern ‘facts of life’ discussion.

The 21st Century Guide to the Birds and the Bees by Belinda Messer and Rosie Luik is a basic, factual guide to how babies are made. It covers all the baby ‘starting points’ with simple, one sentence explanations for sexual intercourse, IVF, artificial insemination, donors and surrogates. Once the ‘how’ is covered, the book briefly explores pregnancy and birth (with reference to both natural births and caesareans).

“Regardless of how a baby is made, it will grow the same way. Making love, IVF, IUI, surrogacy or if a donor is used. The pregnancy and result is the same. A beautiful baby.”


The illustrations strike a good balance between ‘factual’ and ‘fun’. For example, there are anatomically correct diagrams of the male and female reproductive systems, followed by  an illustration of sperm meeting an egg – the sperm are sporting natty scarves and the egg is wearing a bow. These sperm and egg ‘characters’ are used throughout the book to demonstrate the differences between intercourse, IVF and so forth.


I’m loathe to suggest an age at which this book should be read. Kids ask questions at different times and parents are the best judge of what is an appropriate level of information for their child. That said, the book is a mere 18 pages – there’s no fear of ‘too much information’ but equally, the straightforward delivery of the facts also allows this book to be a terrific starting point for further discussions and wider reading.

The 21st Century Guide to the Birds and the Bees is available online from I Am Extra Special. Also available is An IVF Story, a picture book focused specifically on the IVF process.

Katrina Whelen

Katrina studied planning and design, did the hard yards working in a big office building and then traded it all in for a relaxing (!) life at home with four children. She now fills her time with writing, completing a degree in genetics and taxiing her children around Melbourne to their various sporting commitments (not necessarily in that order).

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