American Girl Publishing is addressing the evolving physical and emotional needs of pre-adolescent girls with an updated edition of one of its bestselling titles: The Care & Keeping of You: The Body Book for Girls by Valorie Lee Schaefer, which has sold more than three million copies since it was originally released in 1998. The book, with a February 26 pub date, is now called The Care & Keeping of You: The Body Book for Younger Girls, with additional text by Cara Natterson, M.D., a California pediatrician and the mother of a nine-year-old girl and a seven-year-old boy.
While the original edition of The Care & Keeping of You was for girls ages eight and up, the target readers for the revised edition are girls ages 8 to 10. At the same time, American Girl is publishing a new book specifically for adolescent girls ages 10 and up, The Care & Keeping of You 2: The Body Book for Older Girls, also written by Natterson. Both books retail for $12.99 in paper.
American Girl describes The Care & Keeping of You 2 as “taking up where The Care & Keeping of You leaves off,” with age-appropriate advice and tips. The text of the original edition, according to American Girl Publishing editor Barbara Stretchberry, was reviewed by a medical professional; this time, she says, “We decided to go straight to an expert. Dr. Natterson was a natural fit, being a mother and a pediatrician.”
Natterson, who left a medical practice five years ago, currently works as a pediatric consultant. She also teaches human development classes to 150 children at a Los Angeles-area middle school, a curriculum that she describes as “growth education.” She is the author of four previous books, all aimed at adults: Your Newborn: Head-to-Toe (Little, Brown, 2004); Your Toddler: Head-to-Toe (Little, Brown, 2006); Dangerous or Safe? (Hudson Street Press, 2009); and Worry Proof: A Pediatrician (and Mom) Explains Which Foods, Medicines, and Chemicals to Avoid to Have Safe and Healthy Children (Plume, 2010).
“We’re giving [girls] permission to grow up more slowly,” Natterson explains, by revising the original edition of the book so that it better addresses the needs of younger girls, and writing a new book just for older girls. The revised edition of Care & Keeping includes more information than the original did on the importance of proper hygiene, getting enough sleep, and good nutrition for pre-adolescent girls – because, Natterson points out, their bodies are entering puberty at an earlier age.
“Younger and younger girls are becoming attuned to what is happening to their bodies,” Natterson says, explaining that the revised Care & Keeping was “aged down” by taking out 20% of the information included in the original edition and shifting it to Care & Keeping 2, for older readers.
Older girls, Natterson says, need more in-depth information about “biology and their anatomies” than do younger girls. For instance, Care & Keeping 2 includes a two-page illustrated spread with explicit instructions on how to correctly insert a tampon – which aroused some controversy, she notes, when it was featured in the original edition. The book for younger girls now includes instead a two-page spread on how to use a menstrual pad, information that was not highlighted in the original edition.
Care & Keeping 2 emphasizes the social and emotional changes that accompany the onset of puberty, with an explanation of the relationship between the brain and hormones, the importance of maintaining a healthy self-esteem, and how to effectively manage the moodiness that teenagers inevitably experience. The book also gives recommendations on how to effectively enlist the help of parents.
“I think it will help girls feel that they don’t have to do battle at home,” Natterson notes, explaining that both books emphasize asking a trusted adult for help or support when necessary. “We want children to realize that they can’t always solve their own or other children’s problems,” she says. Natterson emphasizes that access to reliable information is always essential, but is especially important when so many physical and emotional changes are occurring during such a short period of time. “I want girls to use this book as a source of information, rather than rely on another child or search for information on a random Web site.”
Booksellers queried by PW described the original The Care & Keeping of You as a staple in their children’s departments. Describing modern childhood as becoming increasingly “compressed,” Cynthia Compton, the owner of 4 Kids Books & Toys in suburban Indianapolis, told PW that she supports “anything that recognizes the very different needs and stages of girls’ development.”
“We need to celebrate the process of growing up,” she said, “not swallow it whole like a vitamin pill.”
The Care & Keeping of You: The Body Book for Younger Girls by Valorie Lee Schaefer, illus. by Josée Masse. American Girl, $12.99 Feb ISBN 978-1-6095-8083-4
The Care & Keeping of You 2: The Body Book for Older Girls by Dr. Cara Natterson, illus. by Josée Masse. American Girl, $12.99 Feb ISBN 978-1-6095-8042-1