Blended Families, Talking to Kids About Religion, Solutions for Allergies, & More | Parenting Reviews, May 15, 2015

Spring has sprung, and keeping kids on task with the warmer weather is a bit of a challenge. Compared to the buoyant return of outdoor pursuits such as bike rides to the ice cream shop, baseball games, and spring planting, the titles reviewed in this issue are a bit heavy, tackling goliaths such as stepfamilies, hospitalized children, religion for secular families, and baby poop. Ylonda Gault Caviness provides some comic relief with her witty memoir, Child, Please, and despite the downer subject of divorce and separation, the esteemed ­Penelope Leach returns with an excellent When Parents Part. Finally, in keeping with the return of spring, the beloved duo Robert and William Sears offer a full-length yet readable text on all things allergy. Pollen sufferers take note!

Ankowski, Amber & Andy Ankowski. Think Like a Baby: 33 Simple Research Experiments You Can Do at Home To Better Understand Your Child’s Developing Mind. Chicago Review. 2015. 224p. ISBN 9781613730638. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781613730669. CHILD REARING

Designed to help parents understand how a child’s mind develops, this latest book on the topic of experimenting on baby comes from “the doctor and the dad” team of developmental psychologist Amber and technical writer Andy Ankowski, parents of two children. Their investigations are divided into age categories and include ability tests such as problem solving, language development, motor skills, and memory. Using information on everything from mobile placement to scrambled faces, the scientifically inclined parent can track baby’s progress by implementing the authors’ “tips to help your child” and “tips to help yourself.” ­VERDICT The Ankowskis have a flip style that is meant to be humorous but often misses the mark. Despite that, this work on understanding cognitive development is a valuable addition to the parenting literature. Libraries should also consider Shaun ­Gallagher’s ­Experimenting with Babies.

Blended: Writers on the Stepfamily Experience. Seal. 2015. 256p. ed. by Samantha Waltz. ISBN 9781580055574. pap. $16. CHILD REARING

blended51515With over 95 million adults involved in a step relationship of some variety, editor Waltz (Parenting: Four Patterns in Childrearing) taps a niche with this collection of 30 essays that share the highs, lows, fears, and growth that blended families experience over time. Readers may recognize some contributors, such as authors Marge Piercy and Kerry ­Cohen, but other lesser-known names offer just as much richness and variety of experience. Comprised of five parts—“Coming Together,” “Self-Discovery,” “Evolution,” “Acceptance,” and “Reflections”—the book explains feelings about becoming a blended family, which stretch from anticipation to rage to fear. It captures the emotions of children young and grown, in addition to the precarious positions of the stepparents themselves. VERDICT While step relationships can be rife with resentment and animosity, the writers here illustrate how families can grow together and give hope for any reader unsure of how to navigate a new familial structure.

Caviness, Ylonda Gault. Child, Please: How Mama’s Old-School Lessons Helped Me Check Myself Before I Wrecked Myself. Tarcher. 2015. 320p. ISBN 9780399169960. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698158436. CHILD REARING

In her humorous memoir about birthing and raising three children, writer Caviness explores parenting styles in today’s climate of hypervigilancy, black culture, white culture, and her mama’s old-school methods, which turned out to be pretty good in the end. Even though, she writes, “Every black person on the face of the earth believes that…white kids are born with a license to run all over their parents,” she confesses to secretly peeling the skin off of peas to make them easier for her baby to digest. That was baby number one. After babies two and three arrived, Caviness was so exhausted that she finally took heed of her mother’s warning that “if you give them everything they want, there’ll be nothing left of you.” VERDICT Full of zippy dialog, laugh-out-loud cultural exchanges, and wisecracking truths, this title is a fresh take on the parenting memoir through the eyes of a working mother teetering among advice, cultures, styles, and instinct.

redstarForgan, James W. & Mary Anne Richey. The Impulsive, Disorganized Child: Solutions for Parenting Kids with Executive Functioning Difficulties. Prufrock Pr. 2015. 274p. ISBN 9781618214010. pap. $17.95; ebk. ISBN 9781618214034. CHILD REARING

If you have a child with executive functioning issues, you probably look just like the kid on this book’s cover (exasperated). While commonly diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other learning disabilities, kids with organizational problems are not necessarily “on the spectrum,” and there are many things we can do to help them foster important skills. School psychologists Forgan and Richey give parents and teachers clear examples, relevant research, and tips for leveraging strengths. Each chapter begins with a “self-reflection survey” showing how the lack of executive functioning can impede progress in school and at home, followed by action points to assist parents and teachers to move a child on to greater success. VERDICT The advice presented has practical context and gives specifics for action. Using the “SMART” model (goals should be: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely), kids can join their parents in improving impulse control and organization.

Keene, Nancy. Your Child in the Hospital: A Practical Guide for Parents. 3d ed. Childhood Cancer Guides. 2015. 176p. ISBN 9781941089996. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781941089972. CHILD REARING

Now in it’s third edition, this acclaimed guidebook has been thoroughly updated by health advocate Keene. The author covers expected topics, such as preparing your child for a procedure, communicating with the staff, advocating for your child, and familiarizing yourself with the facility. She also includes two chapters for family and friends of a hospitalized child, outlining what is helpful (babysitting siblings) and not helpful (quipping “God only gives people what they can handle”). Keene provides information for more long-term care situations and how best to keep the schools informed, along with brief chapters on dealing with insurance companies and organizing medical and financial records. VERDICT The brevity of information, while somewhat dry in presentation, may be just what the doctor ordered for the concerned or uninitiated parent. Libraries would serve their communities well by having this title available in its newest edition.

redstarLeach, Penelope. When Parents Part: How Mothers and Fathers Can Help Their Children with Separation and Divorce. Knopf. 2015. 320p. ISBN 9781101874042. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101874059. CHILD REARING

whenparentspart51515The esteemed Leach (Your Baby and Child; Children First) offers a kids-first approach to separation and divorce, giving parents solid advice on how this event is perceived and handled by children of all ages. Leach always takes a child-centric approach, which at times conflicts with common custody arrangements, likening the divorce rate to a physical disease that would attract government funding were it so high. Nonetheless, she helps parents understand how their parting affects children and how they can do best by their kids in the process. She addresses “ages and stages,” dealing with other people and family members, and practical and legal advice before moving into specifics such as long-distance parenting, getting kids to take sides, and holidays. VERDICT Leach is a highly regarded child advocate; her research is complete, her advice priceless, and her style encouraging. An essential acquisition.

Palmer, Linda F. Baby Poop: What Your Pediatrician May Not Tell You. Sunny Lane. (Baby Reference). May 2015. 376p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780975317020. pap. $17.99. CHILD REARING

If a 375-page book on baby poop sounds—well, crappy—then you’re probably not the parent of an infant. Those who have been there know that diaper inspection is the be-all and end-all of baby charting, and anything unusual can have mom and dad running to the doctor, sample in hand. Former nutrition-oriented chiropractor Palmer offers inclined parents the opportunity to examine all the symptoms and ­nonissues that poop represents. With information on gut flora and food sensitivities to runny stools and a kid who just won’t go, Palmer helps parents consider whether the cause is celiac disease, a call for probiotics, a change in diet, or just plain normal. VERDICT Thick with scientific citations and references, this book definitely has a place on library shelves. An affordable purchase worth consideration.

redstarRussell, Wendy Thomas. Relax, It’s Just God: How and Why To Talk to Your Kids About Religion When You’re Not Religious. Brown Paper. 2015. 175p. ISBN 9781941932001. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781941932018. CHILD REARING

relaxitsjustgod51515In this gem of a book, journalist Russell explores religion from a nonreligious perspective, helping parents guide their children in a healthy, exploration-oriented direction without guilt, dogma, or indifference. ­Citing statistics that show that 20 percent of Americans are unaffiliated with any religion, the author nonetheless wisely recognizes that children will have many questions about God, Sunday school, the afterlife, and other cultures despite their unaffiliation. Russell doesn’t wimp out but tackles head-on questions children ask, such as: “What does God look like? Do I have to believe in God to be good? Where did we come from?” She also provides advice for dealing with disappointed families (“Grandma’s Heart Is Broken”), offering up principles, such as “Practice empathy and compassion; aim for frank, open discussions; and think long term.” VERDICT This singular book with a clean style and respectful approach is recommended for all libraries.

redstarSears, Robert W. & William Sears. The Allergy Book: Solving Your Family’s Nasal Allergies, Asthma, Food Sensitivities, and Related Health and Behavioral Problems. Little, Brown. (Sears Parenting Library). 2015. 352p. ISBN 9780316324809. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780316324816. CHILD REARING

Physicians Robert (The Vaccine Book) and William Sears add another title to the “Sears Parenting Library” series with an in-depth look at the root causes, diagnosis, treatment, and outlook for those who suffer this common—and potentially fatal—autoimmune response. Allergies seem to be forever on the rise, with designated “nut free” zones in schools and kids who carry their own EpiPens® a common occurrence. The Searses present the best of traditional medical advice with an honest evaluation of alternative remedies often sought by parents today. Covering ailments, such as nasal allergies, eye allergies, and asthma, and examining food allergies, such as those to eggs, nuts, and milk, the authors provide parents with suggestions to treat the symptoms and prevent future allergic responses. ­VERDICT ­This essential title addresses the most timely of concerns, such as gluten sensitivity, injection therapy, and the role of genetically modified foods on our immune systems.

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 reviewing for LJ for nearly ten. She currently serves as the Acquisitions Manager, 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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