When I was five years old, and cognizant enough of the world to start asking where babies came from, either my mother or a friend of hers presented me with the wonderfully candid, but not explicit, children’s book Where Did I Come From? written by Peter Mayle. Yes, that Peter Mayle. The very same one who spent A Year in Provence.
Recently, after a burst water-heater flooded our garage, and forced some long overdue cleanup, my husband found my 1973 edition of the book. It’s battered, stained, and a little warped, and the dustjacket has been missing for decades, but it’s still in excellent reading condition, and when he presented it to me, I blew the dust from its cover, and sat down to do just that.
The cartoon sperm, dressed to the nines in top hats and tails, though sans tuxedo shirts, are just as cleverly depicted as ever, but the thing I truly appreciate through almost-forty-year-old eyes, is that the mother and father cartoons are not pretty people. These are not illustrations based on actors (unless they’re extremely loosely based on the cast of the Brit-Com French Fields, but instead they are lumpy and frumpy, and kind of bald. Well, the father is bald. And frankly, I find this refreshing, because most of our parents don’t look like actors now, and didn’t when we were young children, either.
The book itself is a frank discussion of how babies are made, and while it does use correct names for genitalia, it’s fairly vague about the mechanics of it all.
It also has the subtle humor that I now know is one of Mayle’s trademarks.
I don’t think every adult should run out and read this book.
I do think it’s a wise investment for parents of young children who are beginning to catch on to the fact that the stork story doesn’t hold water.