Teen-Parent Trust, Creative Block Play, Blended Families, Tech Education | Parenting Reviews, November 1, 2016

Public libraries contribute to community health in many ways. They provide forums for discussion, effective collaborations with local agencies, support for neighborhood businesses, and access to timely, accurate information. In essence, our communities rely on our expertise in evaluating materials to provide fair, accurate, and balanced information.

Among the titles in this column are some new offerings of a medical nature that contain questionable advice or less-than-savory presentations. While these books are not always “recommended,” selectors are encouraged to consider them in the context of the scope and depth of their own collections and community values.

Meanwhile, parents everywhere are likely to relate to teen-parent power struggles and will appreciate Neil D. Brown’s advice in Ending the Parent-Teen Control Battle. And the tiniest engineers will love the child-care provider who supports the power of Creative Block Play, as Rosanne Hansel demonstrates in her new book. So whether you are constructing a 500,000-item collection or a wooden tower for a dragon, may your edifice be sturdy and your design sound.

redstarBrown, Neil D. Ending the Parent-Teen Control Battle: Resolve the Power Struggle and Build Trust, Responsibility, and Respect. New Harbinger. Oct. 2016. 176p. ISBN 9781626254244. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781626254268. CHILD REARING

Psychotherapist Brown offers a family-oriented approach to teen-parent power struggles, illustrating how effective change will require adjustments on both the parental and teen front (“It’s not the kid, it’s not the parent—it’s the pattern”). Brown offers clear introductions to the three stages of adolescence, demonstrating the typical developmental challenges followed by four basic temperament types and how conflict between parent and child can make common demands even trickier. Likening power struggles to “The Beast,” the author describes how to “starve” the metaphorical creature of key nutrients such as reactivity and negative emotional tones. VERDICT Full of practical expectations, such as making schoolwork a priority, helping out around the house, speaking respectfully, and being a good role model to younger siblings, Brown’s work also provides sample dialogs and an encouraging style that makes this holistic approach to what can be taxing years thoughtful and encompassing. Warmly ­recommended.

Hansel, Rosanne. Creative Block Play: A Comprehensive Guide to Learning Through Building. Redleaf. Nov. 2016. 200p. illus. ISBN 9781605544458. pap. $39.95; ebk. ISBN 9781605544465. CHILD REARING

creativeblockplay-jpg103116Former art instructor Hansel (education program development specialist, Dept. of Education) laments the two-dimensional screens and workbooks seen throughout kindergarten classrooms, which provide little opportunity for sensory experiences, deep thinking, or problem solving. The result? A diminished skill set of hand-eye coordination and visual-spacial skills. The solution? Bring on the blocks. This simple toy offers opportunities to carry, fill, empty, build, stack, pretend, sort, fit, interpret, reproduce, and stack again. From hollow and wooden to cardboard and foam, blocks in all their many textures are irresistible to children from birth through upper elementary, and their durability and affordability make them indispensable to most child-care settings and lower elementary classrooms. Hansel supplies a wealth of instructional ideas for block play that correlate to topics such as transportation, travel, and world culture. VERDICT Replete with lovely, full-color photographs of children at play, this title—while pricey—should be on every early childhood educator’s bookshelf.

Heitner, Devorah. Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital World. Bibliomotion. Sept. 2016. 256p. notes. index. ISBN 9781629561455. pap. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9781629561462. CHILD REARING

Heitner, founder and director of Raising Digital Natives (­RaisingDigitalNatives.com), presents parents with tips for becoming their child’s media mentor by encouraging them to be “tech literate” if not a tech whiz. The author provides helpful insight into how today’s youth not only consume online information but create it, and that kid-friendly sites such as Google’s safe search and the YouTube Kids app can only go so far in helping to guide digital behaviors. She further delivers firm tips for parents to model in their own tech use (clearly defined boundaries, unplugged times, etc.) and solid examples for evaluating kids’ readiness to form friendships in the digital world (ability to utilize privacy settings and understand their importance, knowledge about when to take conflicts offline, etc.). In addition to the informative narrative, Heitner also includes valuable questions for parents to ask children that may yield surprising answers (e.g., “Does social media ever stress you out?”). VERDICT All in all, a solid offering for the tech-education collection. ­Recommended.

redstarHicks, Randall. Step Parenting: 50 One-Minute Dos & Don’ts for Stepdads & Stepmoms. Wordslinger. Dec. 2016. 90p. photos. ISBN 9780979443039. pap. $9.95. CHILD REARING

Family attorney Hicks (Baby Crimes) offers a brilliantly lean book of tips for stepparents both with and without children of their own. Blended families, whether welcomed or viewed as hostile takeovers, sometimes have bumpy beginnings, but there are approaches that stepparents can take to both ease anxiety and initiate new family traditions. As promised, Hicks’s tips are literally one-minute reads that go miles in helping stepparents understand both their own role and the perspective of the stepchildren. Advice such as “Don’t expect an immediate blended family” can assuage concerns about being liked as well as give important insight into why a stepchild might see you as “the guest who never leaves.” VERDICT From understanding the reasons behind a child’s anger to being flexible in the name a child wishes to call you, the guidance offered here delivers a healthy framework for negotiating a stable family structure. Enthusiastically recommended.

Pacholok, Sally M. & Jeffrey J. Stuart. Could It Be B12? What Every Parent Needs To Know About Vitamin B12 Deficiency. Pediatric ed. Quill Driver. Dec. 2016. 200p. illus. index. ISBN 9781610352871. pap. $16.95. CHILD REARING

Husband-and-wife team and medical professionals Pacholok and Stuart’s dense book on the health risks and implications of vitamin B12 deficiency cites neurological disorders, mental illness, and even autism as outcomes. Typically found in meat, fish, and dairy products, B12 (“cobalamin”) is a water-soluble vitamin that plays a key role in brain and nervous system functioning, in addition to the formation of red blood cells. Beginning with an overview of the vitamin, the authors move into risks and dangers of deficiencies and how those symptoms may appear or play out in pregnant women, nursing mothers, infants, toddlers, preteens, and adolescents. While the authors have clearly scoured the literature in depth, the content is so scientific that only medical professionals will be able to put the material into context (e.g., “People with vascular disease should always have their Hcy, MMA, serum B12, and folate levels measured”). The title and pediatric edition statement also make the intended audience unclear, and some of the findings will likely be questioned in the greater scientific literature. VERDICT Recommended only for academic libraries with extensive nutrition collections.

Thomas, Paul & Jennifer Margulis. The Vaccine-Friendly Plan: Dr. Paul’s Safe and Effective Approach to Immunity and Health—from Pregnancy Through Your Child’s Teen Years. Ballantine. Sept. 2016. 419p. ISBN 9781101884232. pap. $18; ebk. ISBN 9781101884225. CHILD REARING

The benefits and risks of childhood vaccines remains a controversy in the public forum if not entirely in the medical community. Here, pediatrician and father of ten Thomas, with investigative journalist Margulis, offers both solid and risky advice for new parents, some of which is against recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), where he is a board-certified fellow. The author’s style is gentle and motivating, and he clearly cares for parents and children. Despite this, many parents will have a hard time following some of his suggestions (e.g., no manufactured baby food, no formula, no circumcision, avoid acetaminophen), as he advises parents to come to “well child visits with a signed vaccine refusal form” and specifically warns against hepatitis, chicken pox, flu, polio, and HPV vaccines, among others. VERDICT While Thomas does recommend a number of vaccines, his medical wisdom is far too removed from both the AAP and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines to warrant a recommendation.

Wolf, Paige. Spit That Out! The Overly Informed Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy Kids in the Age of Environmental Guilt. New Soc. Sept. 2016. 192p. ISBN 9780865718302. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781550926255. CHILD REARING

Ecofriendly living and desire to raise children solely on organic, non-GMO (genetically modified organism), “green,” and pesticide-free products is not a new thing. Writer and  “eco-chic green living expert” Wolf seems to add to the “environmental guilt” she purports to lessen with experiments such as heating up non-Crayola brand crayons to release asbestos and then publicly panicking on the Internet about it. The narrative is filled with unrestrained quotations, ranging from fellow parents to prolific bloggers, who ultimately arrive at such foregone conclusions as their inability to “possibly do everything to reduce [our] carbon footprints and remove toxins entirely from [our lives].” The most valuable offering in Wolf’s book is the chapter-ending tips, which succinctly cover the topic addressed (detoxing your home, tips for safer cleaning, etc.) in five to ten brief bullet points. VERDICT While the intent is heartfelt, this work ultimately appeals to a limited audience. Purchase only for demand.

Julianne Smith received her BA in English and her MS in Information from the University of Michigan. She has been a librarian for over 20 years and an LJ reviewer for nearly ten. She currently serves as Assistant Director, Ypsilanti District Library, MI. Parenting consumes much of her time outside of work, and it’s a good thing she writes this column because her twins give her a run for her money on a daily basis

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Comments

  1. Robert Snee says:

    Concerning the review of “The Vaccine-Friendly Plan: Dr. Paul’s Safe and Effective Approach to Immunity and Health—from Pregnancy Through Your Child’s Teen Years,” I question the basis of the following, “his medical wisdom is far too removed from both the AAP and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines to warrant a recommendation.” Since when did the CDC and the AAP become the thought police and any nonconforming idea, despite being backed by research, is deserving of being suppressed?

  2. Laura J. Hembree says:

    I’ve read Heitner, Devorah. Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital World.
    To be honest I’m a little bit disappointed. Maybe it’s in the high expectations of the book. On the other hand the book is not bad, maybe it just doesn’t give anything new for me, although I had never considered myself as the good expert in adolescent psychology. I bought this book just to learn about new methods of parental control, in particular, I was concerned about “Internet and children”, I don’t mean ‘adult’ and other dangerous sites, I mean the statistics, according to (which children are using the internet to “solve the problem with homework.” I was also worried about the issue of innovative gadgets to control the kids when you’re away.