Thursday, April 24, 2014

Wha'Sup? Growing Up Inside and Out by Kira Vermond

Everyone grows up.

But is there really only one way to grow? No way.

Even though it's something we all do, it's something we all do a little differently from each other.

Puberty is the time in your life when your body matures. But that's what's happening to your body. Did you know that there's a whole other world opening up inside your head?

It can be surprising. Or a bit confusing. Often exciting. Sometimes stressful. Most of all... it happens in your head.
People have long known, or thought they did, what happens in adolescence--a series of physical changes that turn children into adults, getting bigger, growing hair in new places, changing body shapes, preparing for reproduction.  But more recent brain science shows that more is going on inside the heads of adolescents than outside.  One major thing learned lately is that puberty institutes a paring down of connections within some parts of the brain, a reduction and reorganization of connections which makes all that forgetting everyday stuff understandable.

And even more surprising news is that the all-important frontal cerebral cortex growth--the part that gives humans reasoning, judgment, and planning ability--is nowhere near done during physical adolescence, continuing well into the late twenties. No wonder growing up is hard to do. (By the time we are truly grown up, we're almost growing gray!) But our long adolescence, powerful brains, and ability to reflect on varied experience is what makes us what we are.

Kira Vermond's Growing Up, Inside and Out (Owlkids Books, 2013) is, but is more than, just a handbook to the physical changes of puberty.  Writing with humor and respect for kids in transition, the author deals with how it feels and what it means to go through rapid outward changes and how to deal with it all, from sudden zits to stumblitis and forgetfulness, excess energy and an overwhelming desire to sleep late, sudden changes in interests and desires, heartfelt passions and enervating ennui, and the simultaneous urge to assert individuality and meld with the peer group. The contrasting moods and drives that make adolescence so truly specific to and necessary for human life are touched on with understanding and common sense.

Vermond threads her way through the mine field of adolescent changes that make parents long for their sweet, upbeat little ones--anxiety over looks, popularity, crushes, the risk-taking drive for thrills and novelty, and the many emotions around romantic relationships. Bullying and excluding, minor anxieties over bad hair days to depression and suicidal thoughts are all dealt with solidly, and Vermond takes on most of the situations that make adolescence both a rocky passage and a vivid, memorable, exhilarating period of life.

As the author points out, growing up goes on for a long time. She says, "As a guide to growing up, this is a book that's meant to be by your side for a long time. So if there's something you're reading about that doesn't feel right just now, put it aside. Chances are, you'll be more comfortable reading about it before too long. The point is, there's no reason to rush though growing up--or reading this book." This book has a lot for parents as well as adolescents to think about, and should be on the shelves of school and public libraries.

Color-coded fact boxes, insets with expert's advice, and highlighted definitions are included with the text, and an extensive appendix offers subject-subdivided website resources, a bibliography of books and articles, and a very detailed index offer information and reassurance to readers."This engaging presentation of solid and important information deserves a wide audience," says Kirkus Reviews.

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