Nonfiction Previews, Aug. 2013, Pt. 1: Parenting, from Prenatal Nutrition to Education

Beam, Cris. To the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care. Houghton Harcourt. Aug. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9780151014125. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780547999531. FAMILY & RELATIONSHIPS
Beam should be able to clarify how badly our current foster care system fails the half million children in its charge; she’s not just a Lambda Literary Award–winning journalist of considerable experience but a foster mother herself. The book proceeds by stories, including that of a teenager who signed away her parental rights on a dirty napkin, and Beam should manage this narrative aspect as well; she’s the author of the celebrated YA novel I Am J.

Foss, Ben. The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: Why Strengths Matter More Than Weaknesses—and How To Harness Them for Your Child’s Renewed Confidence and Love of Learning. Ballantine. Aug. 2013. 256p. ISBN 9780345541239. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780345541246. FAMILY & RELATIONSHIPS
Some 30 million Americans struggle with dyslexia, and Foss is one of them—except that he has dedicated himself to activism, founding Headstrong Nation, an advocacy group for dyslexics, and inventing a mobile device called Intel Reader that photographs text and recites it aloud for those with difficulty reading. Here he offers advice on tools and learning accommodations, plus a three-step coping strategy, effectively connecting adult dyslexics with parents of the 2.5 million school children in special education for reading issues. Now this is a good idea.

Karmel, Annabel. Eating for Two: The Complete Guide to Nutrition During Pregnancy and Beyond. Atria: S. & S. Aug. 2013. 192p. ISBN 9781476729756. $23; ebk. ISBN 9781476729770. PREGNANCY & CHILDBIRTH
Karmel, a leading UK expert on childhood nutrition with her own line of meals, is known to Americans through numerous best-selling books, appearances on shows like Today, and a range of children’s food cobranded with Disney. Here she steps back to write about good stuff to eat during pregnancy. Can you trust Mickey Mouse?

Lyerly, Anne. A Good Birth: Finding the Positive and Profound in Your Childbirth Experience. Avery: Penguin Group (USA). Aug. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9781583334980. $26. PREGNANCY & CHILDBIRTH
Associate director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and an obstetrician who has delivered children for over a decade, Lyerly conducted a three-year survey involving over 100 pregnant women to determine what makes “a good birth”—and not just in medical terms. The aim here is to rise above the medical vs. natural childbirth debate to discover how to make the experience the best possible for everyone. Look for television interviews.

Oster, Emily. Expecting Better: How To Fight the Pregnancy Establishment with Facts. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Aug. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9781594204753. $25.95. PREGNANCY & CHILDBIRTH
Because Oster is an associate professor of economics at the University of Chicago and a speaker at the 2007 TED conference, she doesn’t seem like a candidate to write this book. But when she was pregnant she felt that her doctors were unresponsive to her needs, instead giving her rules to follow without justification. So she applied an economist’s analytical skills to the messy and uncertain realities of pregnancy. Could be good; watch where this one goes.

Ripley, Amanda. The Smartest Kids in the World: Rigor, Ambition, and the Freedom To Fail—the Secrets of the New Education Superpowers. S. & S. Aug. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9781451654424. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781451654448. EDUCATION
Parents nationwide now biting their fingernails about college acceptances might be too unnerved to pick up Ripley’s study, but everyone else interested in the quality of our education should investigate. A journalist who helped Time win two National Magazine Awards, Ripley followed three American students who went to see what they could see (and learn) at schools in Finland, South Korea, and Poland that have revolutionized education and are turning out bright, bright kids. One of many things she discovered: letting kids goof and try (and try) again leads to independent thinking.

Steiner-Adair, Catherine with Theresa H. Barker. The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age. Harper: HarperCollins. Aug. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9780062082428. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062082442; ebk. ISBN 9780062082442. FAMILY & RELATIONSHIPS
Parents text relentlessly or worship the computer screen, while children learn more from social media and other forms of entertainment than from school. The consequence? Says Steiner-Adair, a clinical psychologist and school consultant who teaches in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, family dynamics are badly distorted and children especially are failing to learn how to develop sustaining relationships. Lots of grounding here—the author interviewed over 1,000 children, 500 teachers and faculty, and 500 parents—plus advice on beating back the tech waves. With a 40,000-copy first printing; anxious moms and dads will want.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.