Parenting Short Takes: Performances, Purees, and Price Points

From recommending eating organic foods to putting on plays to hanging with Grandma, there is a theme of common-sense in the advice offered in this month’s parenting titles. Dare I say it?: helicopter parenting is on its way out and, as such, more little imaginations will have room to soar. While kids have much of the lazy days of summer to look forward to, there is no rest for us weary librarians. Summer reading is in full swing, our buildings are packed, and our budgets have been eviscerated.

To that end, Parenting Short Takes will institute some changes that will help you do more with less. Beginning this summer, the column will move to a quarterly format that will cover only the gems. I will still include relevant trends and themes, but books I’m not in love with won’t get critical attention. I hope this will make collection development easier because‚ in the future‚ everything that appears in Parenting Short Takes will be worthy of purchase. Questions? You can find me at

OrangeReviewStar Bouzoukis, Carol E. Encouraging Your Child’s Imagination: A Guide and Stories for Play Acting. Rowman & Littlefield. 2012. 184p. ISBN 9781442212879. $29.95. CHILD REARING
Child-drama specialist Bouzoukis (Pediatric Dramatherapy: They Couldn’t Run So They Learned to Fly) offers a handbook for educators and parents looking to create dramas for young children between the ages of three and eight using her Story Drama Method. Children were born to pretend, and dramatic playacting allows them to “experience drama, art, music, movement, and literature all in a single experience.” Covering everything from casting to staging, she follows her introduction with nine classic tales, such as Little Red Riding Hood and Jack and the Beanstalk. Beginning with a brief history of the story, she explains its dramatic significance, followed by her adapted retelling. Each story ends with a series of questions designed to encourage creative thinking, followed by an analysis and presentation tips. VERDICT This title is a lovely addition to the literature and is sure to be a hit with teachers, child care providers, and librarians running reader’s theater programs. Encore!

OrangeReviewStar Gardner, Tamika L. 201 Organic Baby Purees: The Freshest, Most Wholesome Food Your Baby Can Eat. Adams Media. 2012. 240p. ISBN 9781440528996. pap. $16.95. CHILD REARING
Organic is the way to go, and here blogger Gardner ( provides a commendable beginner’s guide to feeding infants with homemade purees. She begins with a brief explanation of why we should choose organic foods and then outlines who can and cannot use the USDA organic seal. She helpfully enumerates a “Toxic Twenty,” a list that rates produce based on its pesticide load, as well as a “Superfood Heroes” list of foods that pack the highest concentration of antioxidants and nutrients. She’s not unreasonably strict, though: Gardner also encourages certain canned foods and frozen vegetables. She wisely considers readers’ budgets, stating that organic baby food in stores costs 21 cents more per container than commercial brands, adding up to almost $30 more per month. She covers strainers, blenders, and food mills, as well as preparation instructions, and tips for freezing and thawing. More than 200 puree recipes follow, increasing in flavor complexity as babies grow, such as Purple Beauty Eggplant Puree and Savory Chickpea Smash. VERDICT This will pair nicely with Top 100 Finger Foods (reviewed in April 2012) and is a welcome addition to the organic baby food shelves. Enthusiastically recommended.

Hoffman, Rosalyn. Smart Mama, Smart Money: Raising Happy, Healthy Kids Without Breaking the Bank. NAL: Penguin Group (USA). 2012. 297p. ISBN 9780451235596. pap. $15. CHILD REARING
Parenting on a budget is hardly a new topic, but Hoffman (Bitches on a Budget: Sage Advice for Surviving Tough Times in Style) has written a welcome commonsense guide for parents looking to cut costs. Rightfully stating that parenthood “preys on your fears, permeates your dreams, and picks your pocket,” she has a practical style combined with solid advice, such as recommending not to purchase a video monitor unless a baby is premature. Her advice is aligned with current child development research, and parents should feel neither worried nor guilty for following it. From toys to food to technology, she clearly outlines what is necessary, what is optional, and what is (basically) a scam. VERDICT Unlike many money guides that are quickly outdated due to web links and price specifics, Hoffman’s has a broader vision and approach that will give it staying power. Recommended.

Salzman, Jill. Found It: A Field Guide for Mom Entrepreneurs. Piggott Press. 2012. 121p. ISBN 9780984753208. pap. $15. CHILD REARING
In this quirky little book, small-business owner Salzman calls mom-entrepreneurs “Founding Moms, ” i.e., mothers of invention who also have small children at home. Like many authors in this vein, Salzman came to write this book because she had trouble finding the information she needed when she started her first business from home; she now wants to share what she’s learned. In two parts and 51 tips, she hurls concepts such as business plans out the window and touches upon such topics as operating a transparent business and avoiding the lure of Facebook when every minute counts. Written in staccato prose and with a frantic tone, the book nonetheless has a certain plucky charm and is accompanied by humorous illustrations by John Hartzell. VERDICT For educated and ambitious mamas who are big on ideas but short on time. This will ultimately serve more as a motivator than an actual how-to.

This I Believe: On Motherhood. ed. by Dan Gediman. Wiley. 2012. 208p. ISBN 9781118074534. $19.95. CHILD REARING
NPR’s This I Believe series is adapted from the 1950s Edward R. Murrow radio program of the same name. In 2011, NPR released the collection This I Believe: On Fatherhood, which was reviewed in this column in April of last year. That title, also edited by Gediman (executive director, This I Believe), read like a “mediocre homework effort” (to quote the review) and the same critique is applicable here. VERDICT This is not a book to lose sleep over if it was missed during the Mother’s Day rush.

OrangeReviewStar Witkin, Georgia. The Modern Grandparent’s Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to the New Rules of Grandparenting. 2012. NAL: Penguin Group (USA). ISBN 9780451235602. 272p. pap. $15. CHILD REARING
Witkin (psychiatry, Mt. Sinai Medical Ctr.; Kidstress: What It Is, How It Feels, How to Help) presents a rich and delightful guide to modern grandparenting. Today, the average age of first-time grandparents is 48, and this current generation is involved with their grandchildren in new, exciting, hands-on ways. Whether they go by Grandma, Nanny, MeMo, or Nona, these grandparents can find something for everyone in Witkin’s book‚ from addressing sibling rivalry to getting along with daughters-in-law to when to offer advice (never). Her sound suggestions will hold up with time and do wonders for nurturing intergenerational relationships. VERDICT This deserves a spot next to Miriam Stoppard’s Grandparents: Enjoying and Caring for Your Grandchild, which is aimed more toward caring for infant and preschool-aged children. Enthusiastically recommended.

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