My Body is Growing: Why Did this Children’s Book Take Two Decades to Become Controversial?


I recently saw a viral video on my Twitter feed. It was a segment in which the American TV pundit Chris Cuomo interviewed a group called “Moms for Liberty” who were trying to remove books they deemed sexually inappropriate from school libraries. A longer version of the video can be seen here.

The shorter version of the video opens with Cuomo asking a question insinuating that the group is opposing books like Gender Queer out of homophobia. The group’s representative counters by reading from a book that she considers inappropriate despite it depicting a straight relationship. The book is My Body is Growing: A Guide for 4 to 8 Year Olds by Dagmar Geisler, and after hearing an excerpt read out, even Cuomo seems to concede that its contents are objectionable.

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I was curious enough to do some research on the book, and learnt something remarkable: this book, which had suddenly become the target of controversy, was twenty years old

My Body is Growing appears to have first attracted significant backlash in May 2022, when various (mostly conservative-leaning) news outlets reported on it. You can find the articles for yourself with a quick search; I’ll simply provide a sample of headlines:

  • Daily Mail: “Shocked parents hit out at ‘disgusting’ book aimed at children as young as FOUR that frankly describes sex, the Pill and the coil”
  • The Sun: “READ IT & WEEP Parents outraged at graphic descriptions of sex in children’s book aimed at FOUR-year-olds”
  • Daily Star: “Parents mortified by ‘disgusting’ kids’ book that describes sex and the coil”
  • Deadline News: “Parents fuming over graphic book aimed at children as young as four-years-old”
  • The Post Millennial: “Children’s book depicting graphic teen sex causes concern among parents.”

The articles are mostly rephrasing one another, and generally quote the same set of tweets from an outraged public (a typical example: “I bet they show this stuff in school. This is how they destroy a whole society.”)

One detail that none of the above articles mention is that the book had been around for nearly two decades. Although the English translation appears to have come out in 2020, the original German edition (entitled Das bin ich – von Kopf bis Fuß) was published back in 2003. Here’s its page on

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There’s little evidence of any substantial controversy here. The book currently has 293 ratings with a total average of nearly five stars.

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Amazon has an option to autotranslate the German reviews, giving me a clearer idea of how the book went down in its home country. As would be expected from the generous overall rating, the reviews were overwhelmingly positive. Points of concern were usually presented as caveats in otherwise favourable reviews: for example, one reviewer admitted to gluing together the pages that covered contraception until their child was a bit older, but still gave the book four stars.

I went to see how My Body is Growing had been received on the UK and US Amazons, but couldn’t find it. The book appears to have been pulled from sale during the backlash: the Post Millenial article, published 19 May 2022, mentions it having been taken down from Amazon; yet the Daily Mail report published the previous day was still able to quote the Amazon blurb. Today, searching the usually-reliable for the English edition of the book turns up no hits at all — not even a second-hand copy.

I was, however, able to find a Goodreads page on the book, complete with ratings and comments:

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The difference really is as clear as night and day. German reviewers, even those who may have found aspects of the book a little inappropriate for its target age group, appear to have been generally positive. But Anglophone readers — despite having a much smaller space of time to react to the book’s publication — jumped to the most hostile possible conclusions. The Goodreads reviews deride the book as  “pornography for children”, “a recipe for grooming” and “clearly written by perverted minds”, with calls for the book to be purged from sale and the author incarcerated.

Evidently, the backlash worked. A book that has been available in Germany for two decades without significant complaint has been deemed too obscene for sale in the English-speaking world. Meanwhile, the obvious question of whether My Body is Growing had any measurably negative impact on its original German audience over the past 20 years has been completely ignored.

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