Parenting Reviews | April 1, 2013

There are some solid offerings in this month’s parenting column, spanning pregnancy through the elementary years. “Alphabet soup” titles are well represented, and crappy kids and petty tyrants not only get their needs addressed too, but even have them illustrated. As parents continue to retract their tentacles, we see more and more “common sense” titles being published, finally allowing the possibility to balancing our collections a bit more. So whether your patrons are dealing with a symphony of pregnancy gas, their comatose libidos, or tantrums most foul, these books offer an opportunity to meet their [reading] needs. The next parenting column has many more crises queued, including a return to the alligator-infested waters of adolescence. There is also a really good galley on biting, which I am anxious to cut my teeth on. Stay hungry, my friends.

Armstrong, Heather. Dear Daughter: The Best of the Dear Leta Letters. Gallery: S. & S. 2012. 192 p. ISBN 9781451661415. $13.99; ebk. ISBN 9781451661422. CHILD REARING

Autobiographical blogs have always felt creepy to me, but Armstrong has over 100,000 daily visits to her blog,, and since Forbes dubbed her an “influential woman in media,” one must consider Leta worthy of a review. Armstrong began writing a letter a month to her daughter, Leta, when the child was a mere eight weeks old. The letters continued for seven years, chronicling every milestone, giggle, food preference, and dip in the pool. Compiled here are “the best” of those missives from years one through five. Interspersed with some humorous lines are more typical entries in which Armstrong bestows her love on her daughter in effusive and mawkish prose (“…I kiss you and then you stretch your arms out and hug me. Leta, you will never know how many years of my life you have healed with this one gesture.”) VERDICT Yep. Autobiographical blogs still feel creepy to me. This is for Leta herself; libraries can pass on it.

Bialik, Mayim. Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way. Touchstone. 2012. 288p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781451618006. $23.99; ebk. ISBN 9781451618013. CHILD REARING

Many readers will recognize Mayim Bialik as the star of Blossom, a sitcom from the 1990s. Celebrity parenting books often feel like a pathetic attempt at a comeback tour, and I didn’t expect to like this title, but Bialik holds a PhD in neuroscience, is a certified lactation counselor, and writes with a pleasing and conversational style. Attachment parenting is hardly new, but she breaks it down into its most basic form, covering expected topics such as why natural labor and breast are best, the importance of nighttime feedings, and (of course) babywearing. VERDICT Bialik strikes the right combination of medical information, parenting advice, and personal experience. More ambitious readers will appreciate Ruth Newton’s The Attachment Connection (2008), another solid title on attachment parenting. A surprise recommendation.

Dunstan, Priscilla. Calm the Crying: Using the Dunstan Baby Language, the Secret Baby Language That Reveals the Hidden Meaning Behind an Infant’s Cry. Avery. 2012. 240p. index. ISBN 9781583334690. $18; ebk. ISBN 9781101597934. CHILD REARING

Dunstan, who has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, amongst other highly visible media outlets, claims that her eponymous baby language will teach parents to “hear, understand, and know exactly what [their] baby needs and how to attend to those needs quickly and effectively.” The author, who had a colicky son herself, studied classical and operatic singing and claims to hear more than most people and to have exceptional pattern-recognition skills. She describes 18 “words” that she says are a universal baby language: Neh means I’m hungry, Eairh means I’m gassy, Gen means I’m teething, and so on. Her research has never been validated, however, and while she seems to appreciate the scientific method, she is forced to use terms like “control type situation” to give credence to her technique, which is mostly aimed at parents of infants under 12 weeks. VERDICT Desperate parents will try anything to soothe a crying baby, and who can blame them? There are definitely distinct infant cries for different needs, but claims to have deciphered their cryptic mysteries are a bit much. Nonetheless, this title may get some media play, so libraries might consider purchase from a circulation perspective.

Library Journal Reviews starred reviewDusick, Amber. Parenting: Illustrated with Crappy Pictures. Harlequin. Apr. 2013. 224p. illus. ISBN 9780373892747. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781460309865. CHILD REARING

Dusick, Parents magazine’s 2011 “Funniest Mom Blog” winner, offers a book-length take on the same, exploring the exasperating moments of life with small children (poop, lack of sleep, messes, etc.), accompanied with “crappy” illustrations, which absolutely take the cake. The entries are one to two pages in length each, with minimal text, and the point of view changes between adult and child, making for some ticklish insights. Her characters are neckless and handless stick figures with eye “domes” instead of eyeballs, yet the package is richly developed, and the narrative is minimalist humor at its best (e.g., “He has no concept of being quiet while people are sleeping, so he barges in loudly asking for random shit”). VERDICT There is no shortage of mommy blogs that are turned into books, but Dusick’s is terribly funny. It joins the ranks of other raunchy parenting titles, such as Go the F*ck to Sleep (2011) and—my favorite—When Parents Text (2011). Libraries without fat wallets will be hard pressed to justify this, but crappy parents everywhere will love it.

Easy To Love but Hard To Raise: Real Parents, Challenging Kids, True Stories. DRT. ed. by Kay Marner & Adrienne Ehlert Bashista. 2012. 340p. ISBN 9781933084145. $18.95. CHILD REARING

In this compilation of brief essays by parents of special-needs children, families get some understanding and support from those who have been there. Parents of children with ADHD, ODD, OCD, and other “alphabet soup” challenges write about their frustrations, sadness, breakthroughs, and acceptance in navigating the difficult parenting journey these diagnoses often present. She covers everything from unsolicited advice to the hostile stares from strangers and the heartbreak of typical childhood cruelty; readers experiencing the same will find sustenance and community in these entries, each of which ends with an author’s note updating the reader on the child’s current status. In addition, scattered throughout the text are brief Q&As with a qualified expert addressing some of the common questions and concerns relevant to the child’s diagnosis. VERDICT Parents of children with special needs require a great deal of support, and this book is a welcome nonpharma addition to the literature. Recommended.

Forgan, James W. & Mary Anne Richey. Raising Boys with ADHD: Secrets for Parenting Healthy, Happy Sons. Sourcebooks. 2012. 275p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9781593638627. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781593639761. CHILD REARING

In this ADHD primer, the authors—both parents of boys with ADHD—provide newly diagnosed families with a temperate guidebook on coming to terms with a diagnosis, current treatment options, ADHD through the years (preschool, elementary, and adolescent), and where to turn for additional help. The authors do not waste time or space on long histories or make foolish attempts at scientific comprehensiveness. Instead, they focus on moving forward after diagnosis and present common treatment options within the context of the latest medical research. Stimulant and nonstimulant medications, food diets, biofeedback, and cognitive behavioral therapy are all given respectful consideration with the authors’ experiences woven throughout. VERDICT While there are many quality titles on parenting an ADHD child, this text is desirable for its concise yet reassuring style. For any family new to the subject, librarians can recommend this offering without hesitation.

Library Journal Reviews starred reviewHall, Karyn D. & Melissa H. Cook. The Power of Validation: Arming Your Child Against Bullying, Peer Pressure, Addiction, Self-Harm, and Out-of-Control Emotions. New Harbinger. 2012. 200p. bibliog. ISBN 9781608820337. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781608826254. CHILD REARING

According to the authors, validation can help children develop autonomy and a secure sense of self, and it may help prevent emotional problems and disorders. If that seems like a lofty claim, be patient for a moment more. Validation is a parenting technique for the long haul and not a response to specific circumstances or problems. Based on the premise that “our quality of life is connected to the quality of our relationships,” Hall and Cook (dialectical behavior therapists) illustrate how accepting a child’s feelings and thoughts (however illogical they are) teaches him to accept his own identity and perception, in turn decreasing his risk for following the tribe into dangerous behaviors. For parents, this means accepting emotional perceptions before walking a child through logical reasoning (e.g., if your daughter comes home from school claiming that she is fat and no one likes her, one should recognize and validate her feelings of disenfranchisement before outlining her faulty reasoning, which would only add self doubt to her existing feeling of disenfranchisement). VERDICT While the authors are a bit redundant in their presentation, there is valuable advice here. This approach takes mindfulness, patience, and a long-term vision, but parents who are able to help their children trust their emotional landscapes will have an easier time of scaffolding to higher reasoning, in addition to more secure relationships with their youngsters. Highly recommended.

Library Journal Reviews starred reviewJohnson, Elle Olivia. The Parent’s Guide to In-Home ABA Programs: Frequently Asked Questions about Applied Behavior Analysis for Your Child with Autism. Jessica Kingsley. 2013. 128p. ISBN 9781849059183. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9780857007254. CHILD REARING

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a preferred treatment for children diagnosed with autism. In this compact and helpful offering, specialized academic instruction teacher Johnson presents an introductory guide to help parents understand what ABA is, how such a program will function in your home, what ABA sessions consist of, and how parents can get the most out of ABA therapy. The book is arranged in a Q&A format, with simple questions and helpful single-paragraph responses. Running the gamut from understanding visual schedules to A-B-C charts (antecedents, behaviors, and consequences), Johnson’s practical guide has just enough insight and information to get a program off to a great start. ­VERDICT This should be required reading for any family embarking on an ABA program and is a commendable addition to the literature. Families who master this and remain in ABA therapy will also appreciate Mary Jane Weiss’s Jumpstarting Communication Skills in Children with Autism: A Parent’s Guide to Applied Verbal Behavior (2012). Enthusiastically recommended.

Mowry, Tia. Oh, Baby! Pregnancy Tales and Advice from One Hot Mama to Another. Penguin Group (USA). 2012. 256p. illus. ISBN 9781583334829. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781101586655. CHILD REARING

Readers may recognize Mowry, winner of many NAACP, People’s Choice, and Teen Choice awards, from her TV successes such as Sister, Sister; The Game; or Tia and Tamera. Adventures in pregnancy and parenting are frequent material for the style circuit, and like most celebrity mom tales, the advice here is secondary to the teller and is thus overly personal and clichéd. She covers everything from her early pregnancy to menu plans and from wardrobe advice to sex after the baby. Interspersed with stories about her swollen feet and flatulence problems are “Ask the OB” sidebars, which address common medical questions (such as swollen feet and flatulence). The book thus suffers from an identity crisis, hovering awkwardly between memoir and parenting. VERDICT While her acting success does not translate to print, Mowry has many followers and is a popular celebrity personality. Libraries should purchase for demand only.

Muggleton, Joshua. Raising Martians from Crash-Landing to Leaving Home: How To Help a Child with Asperger Syndrome or High-Functioning Autism. Jessica Kingsley. 2012. 240p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781849050029. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9780857005236. CHILD REARING

Muggleton, a 22-year-old psychology student at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, himself an Asperger’s “martian,” pens an insider’s guide for parents helping youngsters overcome the difficulties of growing up with the syndrome and find success in work, relationships, and beyond. The author has been speaking publicly about his condition for many years in many venues and is the youngest ever councillor for the National Autistic Society (UK). He includes information on the statistical history of Asperger’s, current treatment methods, scientific studies, and tips for caring adults such as parents and teachers. VERDICT Muggleton’s style matches the subject and is at times awkward and stilting and this, combined with the book’s British slant (substitute teachers are “supply teachers”), means that readers will have some uphill climbing to do. However, his valuable insights and social advocation are commendable. This is an optional purchase for U.S. libraries, unless Muggleton crosses the pond, in which case it should be acquired to meet demand.

Noll, Bernadette. Slow Family Living: 75 Simple Ways To Slow Down, Connect, and Create More Joy. Perigee: Penguin Group (USA). 2012. 224p. ISBN 9780399160073. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781101619698. CHILD REARING

If you feel burned out, overtaxed, disconnected, or otherwise just stressed out and bitchy, here are 75 tips for slowing down and rediscovering joy on the homefront. Written in a leisurely, crunchy-Buddhist style befitting the topic, Noll’s manifesto was “born out of the belief that family life is being hijacked by societal messages that more is better and faster is greater and that you and your children are at risk of being left behind, unless you buy in now.” To counteract that message, she co-founded Each numbered entry in the book is about two pages long, and she addresses topics such as listening with an open heart, practicing family life, and endorsing screen-free hours at home. While the manifesto rings true, her advice both hits and misses. Using your alarm clock as a morning reminder to breathe deeply and calmly before rising is pretty solid stuff, but “dropping love bombs” by circling a loved one and chanting, “Applesauce!” seems exceedingly bizarre. VERDICT There are in turns both nuggets of gold and pyrite here, but libraries with a granolahood demographic (yes, I just made that up) will find a welcome readership.

Library Journal Reviews starred reviewRoss, Susan. Doulas: Why Every Pregnant Woman Deserves One. Trafalgar Square. 2012. 168p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 9781921295300. $22.95. CHILD REARING

There are simply not many books in print that exclusively address doulas. Instead, the subject is often given a brief nod in larger, medicalized pregnancy books. Midwife, author, and doula trainer Ross here offers a lovely, convincing, and succinct guide to the importance of doulas and their significant success in lowering medical interventions, helping pregnant women understand their choices, providing invaluable support to both mom and dad, and increasing rates of breastfeeding, to name but a few positive outcomes. While the book’s Australian provenance is obvious, it does not impede understanding for the reader, and information on pregnancy and birth in many different nations—including the United States—is outlined and explained. Covering such topics as birth plans, conquering fear, prenatal care, and breastfeeding, the book is accompanied by black-and-white photographs and includes many birth stories throughout. VERDICT This hopeful and encouraging book should be widely available in public libraries. In combination with Ina May Gaskin’s Birth Matters (2011) and Penelope Leach’s Child Care Today (2009), it offers an abundance of wisdom to be thankful for and—better yet—implemented. Let the world take note.

Library Journal Reviews starred reviewSchipani, Denise. Mean Moms Rule: Why Doing the Hard Stuff Now Creates Good Kids Later. Sourcebooks. 2012. 256 p. ISBN 9781402264146. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781402264153. CHILD REARING

The only thing bad about this book is the title. The parenting approach taken and recommended by Schipani is hardly “mean”—many would consider it traditional, honest, and effective. In material that is based on valuing future outcomes more than present-day happiness, she offers ten “Mean Mom Manifestos” for raising great kids, including “It’s Not About You, It’s About Them;” “Hang On To Yourself. You May Need That Person Later (And So May Your Kids),” and “Say No. Smile. Don’t Apologize. Repeat as Necessary.” Her reasoning is logical and persuasive, and her presentation is humorous and conversational without being cutesy or apologetic. VERDICT Helicopter parenting has reached peak oil in my opinion, and Schipani provides a great new model for taking back control. Buy. Circulate. Repeat.

Sutton, James. The Changing Behavior Book. Friendly Oaks. 2012. 282p. ISBN 9781878878779. $23.95. CHILD REARING

Child and adolescent psychologist Sutton takes a deeper look at problem behavior, showing how “naughty kids” are often on auto pilot, reacting because of unmet needs instead of blatant defiance or intended opposition. He likens their behavior to internal desperation and outlines how their need for relief is much greater than their need to avoid consequences, often leaving both parents and child in a cyclical pattern of anger and strained relationships that do little to affect change and in which expectations consume relationships. On the opposite end of the consequences spectrum lies a traditional behavior modification plan (rewards), which Sutton mostly disdains, feeling that most kids use them as an “extortion opportunity.” For parents stuck “blaming the temperature on the thermometer,” Sutton explains how four primary factors make behavior difficult to change and presents strategies for unraveling the dynamics of each. VERDICT Although the presentation is reminiscent of a lecture series, Sutton has a conversational style and uses case studies and dialog to good effect. For parents who feel trapped, Sutton gives hopes for long-term resolutions.

Library Journal Reviews starred reviewWeiner, Carl P. & Kate Rope. The Complete Guide to Medications During Pregnancy: Everything You Need To Know To Make the Best Choices for You and Your Baby. St. Martin’s Griffin. Apr. 2013. 544p. ISBN 9780312676469. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250037206. CHILD REARING

In this much-needed and comprehensive directory, physician Weiner (obstetrics and gynecology/integrative and molecular physiology, Univ. of Kansas Sch. of Medicine) and health reporter Rope give expectant mothers and their health care providers a solid tool for knowing if, when, which, and how much medication is safe during pregnancy and while nursing. Medication safety during pregnancy has limited research and thus little consensus on it exists, even among medical specialists. For example, “two thirds of all drugs sold in the United States are classified as Category C, which means there is a lack of adequate human data to say whether they may harm a developing fetus…with less than 1%…in Category A,” meaning safe for use in pregnancy. This more accessible version of Carl P. Weiner’s Drugs for Pregnant and Lactating Women includes concise information on how pregnancy changes a woman’s response to drugs. Each entry then includes brand and generic names, what the drug is for, how it works, contraindications, side effects and warnings, and specific information relevant to pregnant or lactating mothers. VERDICT This should be the go-to reference in all libraries for medication use during pregnancy. A critical purchase. [Index not seen].

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