Many of this month’s titles look at some of the more circumstantial aspects of parenting and, for those affected, address the issue at hand with both specificity and understanding. From addressing preschool stuttering to mastering the SAT, these works might have formed part of more comprehensive titles on language development or study skills, yet here they get their own due attention. Standouts include Joan A. Friedman’s The Same but Different for emotional issues affecting adult twins and the esteemed Jo Frost’s sound and supportive guide for the often frustrating toddler years. The breakout book, however, may just be Debbie Stier’s The Perfect Score Project, which will appeal to a variety of readers. Those who can get past the idea of a teenager’s mother taking the SAT seven times in one year will find that Stier provides a keen look at larger issues surrounding standardized testing, written in both a humorous and engaging style. Expect that title to get substantial media play, and be ready for demand by having a copy on the shelf.
Brown, Christia Spears. Parenting Beyond Pink & Blue: How To Raise Your Kids Free of Gender Stereotypes. Ten Speed. Apr. 2014. 240p. ISBN 9781607745020. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781607745037. CHILD REARING
Brown (developmental psychology, Univ. of Kentucky; Psychology Today, blogger at Beyond Pink and Blue), a leading specialist on the impact of gender stereotypes, offers a review of the latest research combined with a guide to raising children free of the negative influence of gender expectations and limitations. She argues that children are “free to flourish” when gender is deemphasized and covers both the neuroscience and cultural influences of sex in language that is accessible and at times even humorous. Beyond the issues of “pink and blue,” her assertions have a scientific rather than feminist flavor and will enlighten those even of the “boys will be boys” school. VERDICT Much quality literature has been published over the last few years on gender studies, and this title juxtaposes other works such as Leonard Sax’s Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need To Know About the Emerging Science of Sex Differences. For all libraries serving parents.
Diaz, Natalie. What To Do When You’re Having Two: The Twins Survival Guide from Pregnancy Through the First Year. Penguin. 2013. 288p. index. ISBN 9781583335154. pap. $17; ebk. ISBN 9781101631607. CHILD REARING
Diaz (founder, twiniversity.com) offers expectant parents a complete survival guide to babies’ first year. While twins are hardly the unicorns they used to be, they require unique considerations for expecting, delivery, breastfeeding, scheduling, and more, and common guides to pregnancy and early infancy simply do not apply. Diaz, a Manhattan mother of fraternal twins, covers the major topics one would anticipate, as well as the more mundane but crucial ones, such as choosing a stroller. Her top six mistakes to avoid (e.g., not accepting help, not napping, etc.) are useful lessons, and she does a fine job of helping parents prepare for events such as outings to the grocery store (yes, they are that involved). VERDICT Diaz offers a detailed and on-target guide for parents expecting two; for libraries needing an update or addition to the parenting collection, consider this a worthy purchase.
Friedman, Joan A. The Same but Different: How Twins Can Live, Love, and Learn To Be Individuals. Rocky Pines. 2014. 192p. ISBN 9780989346436. pap. $15.95. CHILD REARING
Friedman earned a starred review for her book Emotionally Healthy Twins (LJ 1/08), which focused on parenting techniques for helping twins develop distinct, healthy identities in the face of being born with a double. Here she concentrates on adult twins and the unspoken challenges in this unique relationship that is often both glamorized and idealized, even within families. While outsiders sometimes see twins as celebrities, twins themselves can feel “trapped in a quasimarriage that they didn’t choose.” Friedman does an excellent job of exploring twinship issues, such as conflicting loyalties and separation blues, and offers solid suggestions for recognizing and addressing feelings that “feel like treason.” Chapters end with questionnaires and sidebars for further reflection. The author has an engaging style, with many personal narratives incorporated throughout. VERDICT Friedman acquired her stripes as a twin herself and as the mother of twins—all in addition to her academic credentials as a twin specialist. She is a destination writer for anyone seeking information on this topic. An excellent combination of psychology and self-help; unequivocally recommended.
Frost, Jo. Jo Frost’s Toddler Rules: Your 5-Step Guide to Shaping Proper Behavior. Ballantine. Mar. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780345542380. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780345542397. CHILD REARING
The indomitable Frost (Supernanny) shares both her wisdom and experience for parents of toddlers. The five rules, while hardly new, are presented in her charming and conversational tone and provide not only a foundation for sanity but sure scaffolding to greater learning and happier parenting. Sleeping, eating, learning, going out, and behavior are all outlined in detail, and she helps parents determine which areas are problematic and the order in which they should be tackled. Their interrelatedness are examined, and she explains how “if you don’t provide healthy food, restful sleep, great socialization, and stimulation, behavior problems will increase. And if you don’t deal effectively with those issues you will have trouble with bedtimes, eating, getting along with others, and sitting still long enough to learn.” Frost is a strong advocate for appropriate discipline, arguing that those raised without proper limits and boundaries ultimately become people without “respect, empathy, and compassion for others.” VERDICT Frost is a favorite with many, and her engaging manner carries into her written work. She includes rich advice for navigating the toddler years, which are a challenging yet hugely influential parenting period.
Kramer, Wendy & Naomi Cahn. Finding Our Families: A First-of-Its-Kind Book for Donor-Conceived People and Their Families. Avery. 2013. 263p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781583335260. pap. $18; ebk. ISBN 9781101612477. CHILD REARING
With over one million children conceived through donor eggs or sperm, this book is a timely addition to what is sure to be a growing body of literature on donor-conceived families and their unique circumstances. Herself the mother of a donor-conceived child, author Kramer founded the Donor Sibling Registry (donorsiblingregistry.com) in 2000 to help connect genetically related individuals who are seeking mutual contact. In this supportive and insightful work, Kramer and coauthor Cahn (Harold H. Greene Professor at George Washington Univ. Law Sch.; fellow, Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Inst.) offer guidance and understanding in navigating the journey to self-discovery. In chapters ranging from how to tell your child to challenges within the in vitro fertilization (IVF) industry, the authors are knowledgeable, passionate advocates. VERDICT Full of sidebars, stories, and concrete guidance on beginning and executing a search, the book has both a pleasing layout and a welcoming style that is sure to become the standard for all those touched by donor conception. An essential, required purchase.
Raz, Mirla G. Preschool Stuttering: What Parents Can Do. Gerstenweitz. 2014. 120p. (Help Me Talk Right). ISBN 9780963542625. pap. $12.99. CHILD REARING
Licensed speech pathologist Raz offers this title on preschool stuttering as part of the “Help Me Talk Right” series. While there is no known medical reason for stuttered speech, most children begin stuttering between the ages of two and five. While nearly 80 percent of cases resolve on their own, stuttering is easiest to correct in the preschool years. Raz briefly outlines the different forms of stuttering (e.g., repetitions, hesitations, prolongations, blocks) and presents common reactions in families when a child has a stutter. Though dealt with in the main section on helping a child who stutters, the entire book can be summarized with the author’s one repetitious piece of advice, “Listen to what your child is saying. Respond to what he said, not how he said it.” VERDICT Ultimately, there is little actual advice offered here. The author’s presentation is both flat and uninspired, and the text reads like an undergraduate review of the literature.
Renner, Rona. Is That Me Yelling? A Parent’s Guide to Getting Your Kids To Cooperate Without Losing Your Cool. New Harbinger. May 2014. 224p. ISBN 9781608829071. pap. $16.95. CHILD REARING
Find an adult yelling, and you’ll probably find a kid within spitting distance. Being a yeller is hardly a badge of honor, but all parents find themselves doing it. Parenting radio show regular (founder & former host, “Childhood Matters”), nurse Renner here offers parents a guide to curbing this default habit by examining why parents raise their voices, how temperament affects parenting styles, what to do instead of raising one’s voice, and understanding triggers. Most yelling, she argues, is “not about teaching; it’s about stopping behavior by intimidation or fear, and it’s about expressing your negative feelings.” VERDICT Renner includes exercises, personal reflections, narratives from other parents, and checklists for self-rumination. The book has a bit of a workshop feel to it, but those committed will find direction for keeping their cool when screaming seems like the only option.
Stier, Debbie. The Perfect Score Project: Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT. Random. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780307956675. $25. CHILD REARING
With college applications looming in the near future, Stier started to panic about how her average-performing/committed underachiever/“garden variety” attention deficit disorder (ADD) son would perform on the required SAT college admissions test. Knowing that a high score might be his best way of compensating for his GPA, Stier committed to motivating him by studying for and taking the SAT herself—seven times in a year. She here offers her experience, research, test-taking tips, and more on how the SAT actually works. From Kaplan to Princeton to Kumon to khanacademy.org, Stier immersed herself in every strategic course, cram session, learning tool, and sneaky trick she could tackle in an endeavor to expose the test’s inner workings. VERDICT While the image of a mother outgunning her own child on a standardized test seems strange, the book is a fascinating read. Many insights and strategies can be learned here, from “bubbling” techniques to guessing strategies. Woven into Stier’s experiment is both a mother’s story and a sharp appraisal of the industry of college testing. This might just be one of the big books of 2014. [For more on test-prep materials see, “Ready, Set, Test” roundup on p. 102.—Ed.]