Recently, a single mother of my acquaintance tried to talk to her preadolescent son about the changes puberty will soon bring to his body -- and his life. But mother and son, a pair ordinarily close and humorous with one another, ended up in tears of embarrassment and frustration. And the subject remains undiscussed.

This book could help. Lynda Madaras' down-to-earth, conversational treatment of a topic that remains taboo in many families provides answers to all the basic questions about the physical and emotional changes of male puberty. She also includes a chapter on what happens to girls. A final section on sexuality offers straightforward information on birth control and venereal disease, as well as suggestions on responsible ways of dealing with sexual feelings.

In 1983, the American Library Association named Madaras' "What's Happening to My Body? A Growing-Up Guide for Mothers and Daughters" the year's "best book for young adults." This "parents and sons" volume follows the same question-and-answer format.

The mother-and-daughter book was a collaborative effort between Madaras and her teen-age daughter; she has the help of 15-year-old Dane Saavedra, the son of a friend, for this one. While the teen-ager's voice isn't explicit, his influence may help account for the lack of cuteness and condescension in tone.

Hadaras gathered the questions she answers here from the boys in her health and sex education classes. They run the gamut -- from "Can a boy grow breasts?" to "Could you explain to us, step-by-step, what people do when they're having sex?"

The overriding concerns boys express as the freight train called puberty bears down on them is "Am I normal?" With this book in hand, parents should be able to reassure their sons about the changes they're experiencing, while providing them with information that will help ease the transition from boyhood to manhood.