Henry Le Nav's Reviews > All about the Human Body

All about the Human Body by Bernard Glemser
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Jul 19, 2011

it was amazing
Recommended for: Kids in the 50s.
Read in July, 1958 — I own a copy

Wow I can't believe this book is listed here. I got this book when I was in fourth grade in 1958. Like many elementary school kids I had big ideas about what I was going to do when I grew up, and the rather unrealistic idea I had was that I was going to be a doctor. I found this book in a mail order catalog of scholastic titles given out by the school. I asked my mother to get it for me and she ordered it. After an eternity the book came in the mail.

"Ma, Ma, Look my book come." I yelled as I opened the package. I barely got it in my hands.

"Let me see that." my mother said. I handed over the book. She opened it and went directly to the table of contents. Having dealt with my mother for nine years, I was an expert in reading her face. As she scaned down the page, I saw her face darken. A storm cloud moved over her brow. Suddenly she paged to the back of the book. Her eyebrows arched upward and her eyes widened. Oh Oh...something is wrong. She turned on the stern don't mess with me young man face.

"You can't have this book. You are too young. I'll keep it for you when you get older."

"Ahhh Ma. Why not? I have been waiting for this book. C'mon let me have it."

"No you are too young."

This went back & forth for a couple of days. I had to carefully navigate the waters of wheedling. Too much and she would get mad. I kept using the educational angle and how am I going to be a doctor but only if you let me read that book. How can I be a doctor, if I don't know anything? I could tell she was torn. She wanted me to have it, but then again not. I used the "flop yourself on the couch and feign boredom" technique. You had to be careful with that one. It could backfire and you could get hitched up to chores. Carefully I paved a road of reason. This is educational, this is science, it will help my grades in school. Finally she relented.

"You can read it, except for the last chapter." and she handed me the book. What? That doesn't make any sense, I thought to myself, far too artful to question her. Take the damn book and skeedattle, before she changes her mind.

Well I'll leave it up to you to figure out what chapter I read first. Holy schmolie! The tales are true! You know the ones about the game that big people play with no clothes on. Not only is it true, but that's where babies come from!

This chapter had all kinds of information. Stuff I never heard of before sperm cells, eggs (chickens laid those) chromosomes (the wrong number if I remember correctly), uterus, ovaries, testicles, corpus luteums, hormones...holy mackerel! I never knew any of this stuff. There were simple line drawings, but only of the internal parts, and to be honest I had a hell of a time determining what was what. But as complex as the chapter was, the long and short of it was that the sperm from the father met with the egg from the mother and fertilized it. Like what Dad does to the plants in the garden with the Milorganite? Well it did not matter, details, but voila a pregnancy and 9 months later a baby is born. Oh boy is this cool or what? Wait till I tell all the kids.

This book was a great discovery! It disproved a number of theories--and sent the damned stork in a downward spiral to Earth. To a 9 year old kid, it was like discovering the world is round, or the Earth orbits the sun, or perhaps general relativity, or quantum mechanics. This was amazing stuff! I couldn't believe it, and it was my great fortune to be the first kid on the street with evidence. Scientific proof, written in book! Ha! Ha! My book!

What the book didn't tell me was how the sperm got to the egg, or that there was any fun involved in the delivery. But that was the part I already knew about from the wild stories and tall tales about the dirty games that adults played. We didn't know the precise method and the details, there were a lot of theories--some of them involving flatulence, but we had heard rumors, and of course none of us believed it. The stork brought babies! But now I had the proof! It sort of put Mum and Dad in a somewhat different light...so you guys must of took off your clothes and did the thing, played the dirty game, at least twice for me and my sister. Hmmmm. Just like all those covers on the paperback books with the naked ladies in the drugstore. Oh you never got to see anything but their backs, the top of their bums, and maybe a slight swell of their kooties, but they were naked--you could tell that, and they always had a strange look on their faces--nothing at all like how our mothers looked. The books were really cool to look at but someone would always yell at you. But now I knew why they were naked! Kooties was a term we used for a woman's breasts which oddly we had no other name. One kid claimed to see a picture of baby with its mouth on a woman's kootie in his mother's Redbook. We laughed at him--liar! He was always telling us some line of crap. His dad had at Thompson machine gun from the war. Warren Spahn was his uncle. Nothing but BS... same for this picture. He could never produce the magazine. He was full of crap. But Kooties were also something horrible that you could catch from girls. If you were seen taking a romantic interest in a girl, you would catch kooties from her. "Ha Ha! Henry got kooties...Henry got kooties".

The next day I told my best friend about my scientific endeavors of the previous night, how I was told not to read the last chapter by my mother, and how the chapter proved the wild stories we had heard. He got mad at me and said that what I read was BS.

"My parents would never do something like that."

"Yeah well I read it in the book."

"Well the book is wrong and so are you."

"Yeah but, if that is what it takes to have a baby, then they had to do it."

Well my friend was 2 years older than me and quite a bit bigger. He threatened to kick my ass if I mentioned it again. So I left it go. To tell you the truth, I don't know when he might of actually started to believe in sexual reproduction. But like Galileo before me, I gave up, an ass kicking or being burned at the stake was not worth being a purveyor of a scientific truth. "Yep, that's right, it was the stork." But for the rest of the kids in the neighborhood, I became something of a Masters and Johnson explaining to wide eyed kids how their mother's and father's took off all their clothes, played the game, and that's where you came from. I would throw in some of the technical terms, sperm and chromosomes, to give my tale scientific authority, but for the plumbing I just used the street terms, all though I didn't really know what the street term was for what girls had, or what it looked like, or how it really worked. For that summer, I was something of a celebrity. Kids wide and far would come to hear the truth about where babies came from.

I did read the rest of the book, because I was interested in the body, how the lungs exchanged oxygen and carbon dioxide, how the chambers of heart worked, how the brain worked, and, yes! where babies came from. Alas,it didn't take long for me to figure out later in my school career that only smart rich kids become doctors. I was neither smart nor rich, and as such, I never put Glemser's book to practical value. I still have the book. I should find it and read it again.

I realize that this is not much of a review for the book, but you must realize I read it 53 years ago when I was nine. Five Stars! It was the only formal sex education that I ever got. If I had to rely on what my parents and school taught me, I could easily believe to this day that storks brought babies.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Sharon (new)

Sharon Griffitts Loved your review. Perhaps only those of us who grew up in the fifties truly appreciate your tale. I never had that book myself but do you remember the human figures with see through bodies that he all the organs? Those were cool.

On one point I will take issue. At the age of eleven I decided I wanted to become a doctor and I did, even though I was not rich, was and am, a girl.
I was smart enough.

message 2: by Henry (last edited Aug 08, 2012 04:01AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Henry Le Nav Sharon wrote: "Loved your review. Perhaps only those of us who grew up in the fifties truly appreciate your tale. I never had that book myself but do you remember the human figures with see through bodies that ..."

Yes, I had the visible man. It was cool and well made. You could easily remove the chest and abdominal cavity and pull the organs out.

Here you go:


I was a bit sloppy in my narrative, you are right, you didn't have to be rich to become a doctor, but it helped! You definitely had to be smart. Being female made it hard too. Good for you, it is great to see someone actually follow their childhood dreams! Did the reality live up to the dream?

Thank you for the kind comment.

message 3: by Alicia (new)

Alicia When I first saw the cover of this I wondered if it was the book where in the middle they have the clear overlays where you turn it and lay it on the page and you can see the veins, then the next overlay with the muscles, etc. But I stuck around to read your little story and it was hilarious. Does it have the clear overlays or was that only in the Encyclopedia?

Henry Le Nav Alicia wrote: "When I first saw the cover of this I wondered if it was the book where in the middle they have the clear overlays where you turn it and lay it on the page and you can see the veins, then the next o..."

I remember those too! It was definitely not in this book. Were those overlays in the World Book Encyclopedia? It seems I also remember some for various maps as well. There would be the basic map, and then a lake and river overlay, etc.

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