What Makes A Baby: an honest, contemporary book about reproduction and identity, a useful guide for parents to explain these notions to children

Cory Silverberg, What Makes A Baby. Illustrated by Fiona Smyth

Published 2012 by Seven Stories Press, 36p



I come from a country that is still trying to find its way to a democratic existence, a society that is continuously fighting its judgmental and prohibiting past. The process is extremely slow, the barriers are countless and the prejudices continue to collect their victims. Some children are still explained that they are brought in the family by a stork and not long ago The Coalition for Family collected signatures to change the law and define the family as a group consisting of a pair of a man and a woman (only!).

It is not easy building a life away from my family but I am happy and grateful that my daughter can grow in a society that is tolerant and open minded. I am constantly educating myself to be able to answer her questions and to help her be informed. She is six and extremely curious. We discuss everything that crosses our minds and I don’t think there are inappropriate subjects for children, it only matters the way we answer their questions and the way we expose them to delicate subjects.

We have already discussed gender and reproduction but I was happy to find Cory Silverberg’s book and use it as a manual for further support. It is a book that does magic. The scientific approach is doubled by a friendly, accessible tone and Fiona Smyth’s illustrations are captivating. More than a book about reproduction, gestation and birth, What Makes A Baby is a celebration of life and humanity.


The possibility for a couple to have a baby is not exclusively by intercourse.

Not all bodies have eggs in them. Some do, and some do not.

Not all bodies have sperm in them. Some do, and some do not.

Just like eggs and just like sperm, some bodies have a uterus and some bodies do not.

Cory Silverberg, a sexuality educator, creates a beautiful opportunity to talk about surrogacy, adoption and artificial insemination. No matter the procedure, what we should keep in mind is that each new individual is a unique entity, created by the dance of an egg and a sperm that each has its own story; Fiona Smyth emotionally illustrates the egg and the sperm as individual organisms carrying its special, emblematic stories.



There is a timeline illustrating the development of a fetus but above the scientific information given, children will sense the emotion and excitement the families experience when waiting for a new baby. Born at home or in a hospital, through the classic procedure or delivered by C-section, the birth of a baby is a special moment in the life of a couple, a nontraditional family, a community and, why not, of the world.

What Makes A Baby is thoughtfully created, leaving space for grownups to introduce their own stories and to turn it into a personal experience. Complement it with Sophie Blackall’s The Baby Tree, another delightful picture book that explains reproduction and birth.

Illustrations courtesy of Fiona Smyth.

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