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Manny Rayner's book reviews

I love reviewing books - have been doing it at Goodreads, but considering moving here.

Currently reading

The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence For Evolution
Richard Dawkins
R in Action
Robert Kabacoff
Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies
Douglas R. Hofstadter
McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture
Harold McGee
Epistemic Dimensions of Personhood
Simon Evnine
Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning (Information Science and Statistics)
Christopher M. Bishop
Relativity, Thermodynamics and Cosmology
Richard C. Tolman
The Cambridge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition
Julia Herschensohn, Martha Young-Scholten
Lili Rêve D'être Une Femme - Dominique de Saint Mars, Serge Bloch Earlier this afternoon, I was shopping at Coop City here in Geneva and saw a whole display case of these books in the children's section - they were clearly very popular, though I'd never noticed them before. I bought a couple at random. When I got back to the office, I asked a colleague, who has a young daughter, if she knew the Lili books.

"Oh yes!" said Marianne. "Ymelia reads them all the time!"

"So they're aimed at seven year olds?" I asked.

"No, no," said Marianne, appalled at my ignorance. "From when they can read by themselves."

"So, five year olds?" I corrected.

"From when they can read," said Marianne, and went off to the day-care center.

I read my copy on the way to the airport. Well! I admit it, I am a little bit startled. It starts tamely enough. Lili's friend is bursting to tell her a big piece of news. She's now a woman!

"Like how?" asks Lili. "You've been a woman since you were born." But the friend tells her that she's now a real woman, since she's tongue-kissed her boyfriend. She supposes Lili's done that too?

"Of course!" lies Lili automatically.

"But weren't you worried about getting pregnant?" asks the friend.

"Don't you know where babies comes from?" says Lili scornfully. "The boy has to put his zizi in the girl's zézette".

So far I'd seen it all before. But after they go off to chat with Valentine, who's a little older and the local expert on sex and boys, Lili got somewhat more detailed information than I'd been expecting.

"I really am a woman!" boasts Valentine. "I got my first period last week!" (There's a helpful footnote saying that you can learn more about periods in Lili Wants To Know Everything About Babies).

"So you can have a baby?" asks Lili.

"Damn straight!" says Valentine.

"But how would you feed it?" asks Lili's friend. "You haven't got any boobs."

"They get bigger when you're pregnant," explains Valentine. And once started, there's no stopping her: among other things, she tells them that they have TWO zézettes.

"You're kidding!" reply Lili and her friend, peeking inside their shorts.

"Absolutely!" says the well-informed Valentine. "Le vagin on the inside, and le clitoris on the outside. It is so cool to be a girl!"

There's a plot too, but I won't give it away. Suffice to say that, if you've ever wondered where those sexy, sophisticated French women come from, now you know. They start real early.