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Kate Zambreno’s work blends memoir, art criticism and literary history/gossip to brilliant effect, and in recent years, her books have become even deeper and richer as they have been suffused with the experience of early motherhood. The Light Room, like her 2021 book of literary criticism, To Write as if Already Dead, records the impossibility of finding time and space to write as a new mother. But instead of suffering from these restrictions, the book blossoms because of them, written in furious spurts that both describe and embody the stolen moments between feeding, waking and sleeping.

The Light Room offers readers who are new to Zambreno a perfect entry point into the patterns of thinking and writing that her work is known for. As it follows a daily record of Zambreno’s life with small children during the COVID-19 lockdown—the groceries, the laundry, the mess, the exhaustion and the outings to Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York—the book also considers the developmental experience of pandemic babies who see unmasked faces only at home and who haven’t yet met their extended families. Zambreno tracks experiments in early education during a pandemic as well, from an outdoor “forest school” to using Montessori methods at home. 

The unending domestic care work, however, is balanced by Zambreno’s reading, writing and thinking. Nursing at 4 a.m. while reading Yuko Tsushima’s novel Territory of Light about single motherhood in 1970s Japan conjures a sense of “cozy dread.” A child’s collection of found objects evokes visual artist Joseph Cornell’s box art. Translucent building blocks suggest a literary form for the book itself: a mother writing in tiny increments, stealing bits of time to build, entry by entry, a chronicle of “seasons and exhaustions.”

The restrictions, fear and grief of parenting during a pandemic are ultimately measured against moments of joy and glimmers of beauty, what Zambreno calls “translucencies.” Thinking through Natalia Ginzburg’s 1944 essay “Winter in the Abruzzi,” Zambreno approaches a vital truth that lies at the heart of this memoir: What if these days of domestic constraint turn out, in the long run, to be the happiest time in a family’s life together?

Kate Zambreno’s memoir The Light Room measures the fear and grief of parenting during a pandemic against moments of joy and glimmers of beauty.
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Fat Talk 

With the rise of the body positivity movement, many parents have asked, “How do I raise my child to love their body, eat healthy foods without demonizing sweets and navigate all of the negative talk about the sizes of bodies?” Most parents don’t know, because they’ve also grown up in a fatphobic society swarming with confusing advice and thin privilege. That’s where journalist Virginia Sole-Smith’s new book, Fat Talk comes in.

‘Fat Talk’ gives tons of helpful advice for navigating food and provides conversation starters to help unpack fatphobia with your child, no matter their size.

Sole-Smith presents research about how diet culture is promoted by Instagram influencers, doctors and pharmaceutical companies, all seeking to make a dollar. She also uncovers ample evidence that proves dieting doesn’t work, except as a strategy to blame the individual instead of society’s marginalization of larger, fat bodies. Rebalancing the narrative, she argues, will target the real problems, instead of shaming and harming children. It even helps the parent resolve complications they have with their own bodies.

In addition to its science-based debunking of diet culture, Fat Talk gives tons of helpful advice for navigating food and provides conversation starters to help unpack fatphobia with your child, no matter their size. It also includes a list of resources for parents including picture and middle-grade books, memoirs, podcasts, newsletters, movies and television shows and other resources.

Calm the Chaos

Pulling from her own experiences as both a mother of a child who doesn’t quite fit the mold and a teacher, Dayna Abraham’s book, Calm the Chaos is about empowering parents of children who need extra emotional, physical and developmental support. Abraham presents a five-stage framework that helps parents navigate and quell the storm. Each stage has been broken down into manageable chunks, often with illustrations; Abraham knows the parents who need her help do not have a lot of free time.

In a conversational and relatable way, Abraham helps families create safety through love for their high-needs child so each member can move from surviving to thriving. Every chapter includes lists of questions that help assess your current needs, actionable steps to put into practice based on where you are with your child and notes that relieve any shame that may come up as you assess your family’s needs.

Abraham knows the parents who need her help do not have a lot of free time.

Abraham provides real stories about real children who have benefited from her approach, giving the reader examples to draw from as they begin implementing the strategies in the book. Calm the Chaos will be a fabulous tool for anyone seeking to give their child the power to be who they were born to be.

Erasing the Finish Line

Most parents have worried about how to prepare their children for leaving the nest and finding a successful life of their own. In Erasing the Finish Line by early career development expert Ana Homayoun, parents are encouraged to let go of the made-up finish line at high school graduation and college admissions. As an academic advisor, Homayoun has helped countless young people figure out a new blueprint for success by building core competencies that will benefit them throughout their lives. Though they may lead to academic success, these core competencies aren’t structured around test scores and GPAs. Instead, Homayoun’s method crafts a blueprint based on the individual child’s goals. She encourages parents to instead teach their children how to organize, plan, prioritize, adapt, start and complete tasks. These skills will get older children through young adulthood and are important for long term success in any job or role.

Young people in their teens and early twenties are experiencing anxiety, depression and adjustment disorders at alarming rates, a fact that Homayoun says is contributed to by the intense focus on admissions to the “right” school. Erasing the Finish Line is a delightful read that functions as a handbook for loving and accepting your child just as they are. Only when our children feel an unconditional sense of acceptance can they find real success.

Growing Up in Public 

Many parents struggle to have healthy boundaries around technology, let alone help their children navigate the complex landscape of social media, texting and access to potentially harmful content. Growing Up in Public by Devorah Heitner, Ph.D. offers a wealth of relatable information, and will steer parents away from simply monitoring the ways children use technology, arguing instead for a mentorship approach that will guide children through the many landmines it can create for us.

Readers will walk away with a wealth of proactive strategies to prevent potential harm for their children who are engaging in the digital world.

From strategies rooted in trust versus surveillance, character building versus shaming and consent versus boundary crossing, Growing Up in Public gives parents a gentle guide on how to keep lines of communication open between them and their child.

Heitner’s gentleness shines in her writing. Her style puts the reader at ease, while also giving them permission to support tweens and teens through compassionate care. Readers will walk away with a wealth of proactive strategies to prevent potential harm for their children who are engaging in the digital world, as well as gentle guidance on what to do when the worst happens. This is an important guidebook for all parents as they seek to give their children the skills they need to navigate our brave new world.

Four parenting books on body positivity, neurodivergence and responsible social media use will ensure this remains the case.
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You want to be a great mother. But how do you care for yourself without neglecting your kids needs, feeling overwhelmed by guilt, or succumbing under the pressure to be perfect?

Dr. Morgan—a psychotherapist and relationship expert—has helped over 100,000 moms regain their sanity and prevent burnout through her popular courses, coaching, and social media wisdom. In her debut book, Love Your Kids Without Losing Yourself, she offers a proven step-by-step plan that any mom can follow.  In this powerful book, she reveals how to rid yourself of mom-guilt for good, identify your needs and express them with confidence, create a self-care plan that goes beyond pedicures and bubble baths, and thrive as a woman after being on the back burner for too long.

Love Your Kids Without Losing Yourself is a must-read book for modern moms. You don’t have to choose between self-abandonment or child-abandonment. You can love yourself and love your kids. Discover how to flourish as a mother, know exactly how to care for yourself in ways that actually make a difference, and finally feel joy in motherhood.

Loving your kids isn’t supposed to mean you completely disappear or get swallowed up by the demands of motherhood.

In her debut essay collection, comedian and actor Natasha Leggero muses, often hilariously, about what it’s like to have a baby at 42 and find your way as a mom. “It’s hard raising a child with a man,” she writes in the opening essay of The World Deserves My Children. “One day I asked my husband to give the baby a bath. I came into the kitchen to find my daughter sitting in a sink full of dishes while my husband scrubbed her and a plate at the same time. Don’t use Dawn on her! She’s a baby not a duck after an oil spill. I would have to be very drunk to do any of that.” Leggero’s style is breezy, sometimes over-the-top, with punchline quips punctuating her anecdotes. She’s like the funny friend who’ll say anything after a cocktail or two.

Leggero details her grueling path to pregnancy and her first few years as a parent with humor and insight. She contrasts her own scrappy childhood in Rockford, Illinois, parented by a single mom who struggled to make ends meet, with the minute concerns of the uber-privileged Los Angeles parents she encounters as an adult. As in a stand-up routine, the essays digress, often charmingly, to memories of things like her dad’s family’s Italian Christmases. While some subjects will be familiar to parents—the difficulties of breastfeeding, the search for a preschool—the collection really hits its stride in the essays on discipline and fear. Leggero writes that, as a child, she was “pretty obnoxious and tended to say whatever popped into my head—sort of like a male comedian.” Unlike a male comedian, however, Leggero had to write “I will not disrespect my mother” a thousand times as punishment for “telling it like it is.” Noting the variety of permissive parenting styles she encounters in LA, Leggero says she strives for an approach to discipline that’s somewhere in the middle.

Near the collection’s end, Leggero includes a Q&A with her husband, Moshe Kasher, also a comedian. She asks him how they differ as parents and what he thinks of her as a mother, and his answers are funny and touching. The World Deserves My Children is a book with a lot of heart and even some wisdom, perfect for fans of Jessi Klein’s I’ll Show Myself Out.

In her debut essay collection, comedian and actor Natasha Leggero muses, often hilariously, about what it’s like to have a baby at 42.

Whether you’re a brand-new parent to an infant or a grizzled veteran trying to get your teens to actually talk to you, some days you can’t help but wonder if you’re doing it all wrong. These parenting books are here to help.

Good Inside

Good Inside by Becky Kennedy

Becky Kennedy’s Good Inside: A Guide to Becoming the Parent You Want to Be is the book I wish I’d had when my kids were little. Kennedy, a psychologist, argues for finding the good inside your child when they throw a tantrum or say they hate you. To start, we need a change in perspective, seeing our kids’ behavior as clues to what they need rather than who they are. Using anecdotes from clients and her own family, Kennedy decodes behaviors (lying, squabbling, perfectionism) and offers connection strategies for each. When a parent strengthens their relationship with their child, she writes, they’ll see improved behavior and cooperation. Kennedy also shows how parents can help kids name their emotions. “The wider the range of feelings we can regulate—if we can manage the frustration, disappointment, envy, and sadness—the more space we have to cultivate happiness,” she writes. It’s a warm, good-humored book.

How to Raise an Intuitive Eater

How to Raise an Intuitive Eater by Sumner Brooks and Amee Severson

Food is a common battleground for parents and kids at all stages. Sumner Brooks and Amee Severson’s How to Raise an Intuitive Eater: Raising the Next Generation With Food and Body Confidence link those family battles to diet culture, the messages about weight and appearance that we’re all bombarded with. They connect diet culture, including medical messaging, to shame, mental illness and negativity about food and the body. Eating disorders, the authors note, are among the mental illnesses that are hardest to treat. The good news is that kids are born intuitive eaters, their brains and bodies wired to know when and how much to eat. To build an intuitive eating family framework, the authors offer strategies such as their “add-in, pressure-off” approach: Instead of limiting foods, or labeling some foods bad and others good, focus on adding more variety. And instead of rules and commentary (“You must eat two bites!” “I can’t believe you’re not eating that!”), focus on providing the meal and letting the child decide how much to eat. Though sometimes dense, How to Raise an Intuitive Eater is a thoughtful and comprehensive resource.

The Teen Interpreter

The Teen Interpreter by Terri Apter

In The Teen Interpreter: A Guide to the Challenges and Joys of Raising Adolescents, England-based psychologist and researcher Terri Apter aims to help parents engage with their teens’ struggles. “Try to see what your teen is seeing; try to understand what your teen is feeling,” Apter writes. Drawing on 35 years of studying teens and families, Apter describes some of the biggest challenges for teens and parents through the lens of teen brain development. As the teen brain remodels itself, changing dramatically, so do teens’ relationships, behavior, sense of identity and emotional responses (outbursts, rudeness, grumpy silences). Sometimes it can be tough to decipher what’s normal teen behavior and what might be mental illness, Apter notes. Throughout, The Teen Interpreter threads together research and teens’ stories, along with exercises for parents to communicate better and build stronger relationships with their teens, which in turn can help teens build resiliency through the challenging teen years and into young adulthood. It’s a clear and reassuring guide.

The Sleep-Deprived Teen

The Sleep-Deprived Teen by Lisa L. Lewis

In The Sleep-Deprived Teen: Why Our Teenagers Are So Tired, and How Parents and Schools Can Help Them Thrive, journalist Lisa L. Lewis lays out why sleep matters to teens’ well-being: A lack of sleep affects their mental health, their ability to learn and play sports, and their behavior. But paradoxically, it’s tough for teens to get a good night’s sleep (8 to 10 hours) because their body clocks have shifted; they’re biologically primed to wake later in the morning and fall asleep later at night. The Sleep-Deprived Teen opens with the story of the first teen sleep studies at Stanford University, emphasizing how little experts knew about sleep and the teen brain until recently. As the parent of a teen, Lewis helped get the first law in the country passed requiring later school start times. Since then, studies have found that teens who start school later are more likely to show up at school and do better on standardized tests, and less likely to get into car crashes or trouble after school. The last chapters of Lewis’ book even offer a map for parents aiming to change school start times in their own districts.

Raising Antiracist Children

Raising Antiracist Children by Britt Hawthorne

Antiracist and anti-bias educator Britt Hawthorne is also a home-schooling mom of multiracial children, and she draws on research, teaching and her own family’s experiences in Raising Antiracist Children: A Practical Parenting Guide. “Instead of viewing antiracism as a destination,” Hawthorne writes, “see it as a consistent, active practice: a lifestyle.” Part primer, part workbook with activities for different age groups, Raising Antiracist Children breaks down concepts like bias and white immunity to help parents initiate, rather than avoid, conversations on race. If you’re the parent of a child of color, the book can help you encourage their self-confidence. If you’re a white parent, the book can help you see aspects of racism you might not have seen before (for instance, the way our culture assumes white skin is the default). The book’s principles reflect a broader parenting philosophy that includes setting healthy boundaries, building community and following your child’s desire to learn. “Embracing your children’s curiosity will support them in becoming open-minded, science-driven, and empathetic,” Hawthorne writes. “Differences do not divide us, it’s our fear and unfair treatment of differences that do.”

Reading for Our Lives

Reading for Our Lives by Maya Payne Smart

The introduction to Maya Payne Smart’s Reading for Our Lives: A Literacy Action Plan From Birth to Six makes note of a quiet crisis: American basic literacy rates are weak compared to those in other industrialized nations. Parents want to raise readers, but they may not know what to do beyond reading aloud to their children before bed. Reading for Our Lives aims to change that. The book first maps out the milestones and skills—oral language, sound and print awareness, letter knowledge, phonics and spelling—that lead to reading. Smart then offers a range of strategies, games and play suggestions that help parents build those skills organically. For instance, with babies, parents can converse in a number of ways: talk, then pause to listen to their coos; ask them questions; label everyday objects for them. With older kids, parents can play “I spy” with sounds, not just colors. (“I spy something that rhymes with tike.”) Smart’s book is an empowering manual for readers and their kids.

Staying connected with your child makes a difference at every stage. These empowering guides show you how.

In this often hilarious and consistently stirring performance, comedian, actor and all-around celebrity Jamie Foxx dishes on his toughest role: being a father. Throughout Act Like You Got Some Sense: And Other Things My Daughters Taught Me (6 hours), Foxx brings honesty and heart to touching stories about his childhood—growing up with an absent mother and being raised by a loving and unyielding grandmother—and shows how these experiences guided him when he became a parent. Foxx’s impersonations of family members are dynamic and animated, as are his exasperated (and sometimes expletive-filled) responses to the trials and tribulations of parenthood. 

In an equally candid and heartwarming foreword, Foxx’s eldest daughter, Corinne, affirms that, despite some unconventional parenting, her father always showed up for her and her sister, and always conveyed his love for his family. Throughout his rise to fame, Foxx’s continual efforts to stay grounded and live by the values instilled in him by his grandmother shine through in the raising of his daughters. 

This inspiring, raucous and entertaining listening experience brims with attitude and positivity about embracing parenthood and the ups and downs of life. 

In this often hilarious and consistently stirring performance, comedian, actor and all-around celebrity Jamie Foxx dishes on his toughest role: being a father.
Behind the Book by

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon—or even a parenting author—to figure out how to raise a reader. All it takes is a cozy lap, a pair of loving arms, an open book and a few common-sense tips.

Read early. True, newborns don’t know a cat from a hat. And toddlers are more wiggle worms than bookworms. But there’s no better way to get a child in the reading habit than getting off to an early start. Build storytime into your little one’s routine right from the beginning.

Read often. Bedtime is the obvious time for storytime—and a particularly good one, too, especially if it comes after a soothing bath (a wound-down little one is more open to sitting down—and more receptive to listening). Plus, bedtime stories, especially when combined with cuddles, can quickly become a treasured ritual on both sides of the armchair—the perfectly relaxing end to your child’s busy day . . . and yours. Another good time to get a child hooked on books: wakeup time. By catching your bookworm early, while she’s still sleepy, you’ll minimize squirming and maximize attention. And then—there’s any time. Tote a book with you wherever you go and whatever you’re doing and reading will become your little one’s favorite go-to distraction.

Issue an all-access book pass. Keep stacks of books of every variety everywhere in your home—by your bed, on the coffee table, next to the armchair, in the kitchen, in the car and definitely in your child’s room. Don’t make any book (except, perhaps, a very valuable one) off-limits to your little one. Even a toddler who tends to devour literature (as in, bite on edges and chew paper) should be allowed supervised page-turning stints. When shelving your child’s books, keep them accessible on low, open shelves or in easy-to-reach bins.

Be a borrower (and maybe a lender, too). The best way to keep a fresh stash of reading material at the ready? Make a weekly trip to the library with your budding book buddy. Don’t have a library in your neighborhood? Set up your own book co-op with fellow playgroup or preschool parents.

Get ready to repeat. Most toddlers and preschoolers can’t get enough of a good thing—they find it comforting to hear the same book over and over, night after night, day after day. But there’s another reason why little ones benefit from the read-and-repeat approach to storytime: When you’re new to the language game, repetition helps you pick up skills faster. Being able to fill in the last word in a line or anticipate the so-familiar plot is also super-satisfying.

Do some editing—and editorializing. While you can definitely read a book to your tot straight through, don’t feel obligated to stick to the script verbatim. If too many hard-to-understand words are making your captive audience restless, edit them down or out. Paraphrase. Summarize. Simplify.

Make reading interactive. Even a child who doesn’t yet know an A from a Z can point to the doggy, the boy on the bicycle, the sun in the sky, the monkey in the zoo. Or answer simple reading comprehension questions (“What is the girl eating?” “Where is the mommy going?” “Is the boy happy or sad?”). Not only does interaction enhance learning but it boosts enjoyment and attention span, too.

Read to yourself. Children are master mimics—especially when it comes to their parents—and they’re always more likely to do what you do than what you say. So to raise a reader, be a reader. Never had the reading bug? Try contracting it. Join a book club. Check out reading lists online. And make sure your little one catches you reading often.

Power off. Even books that come with dials, flaps and pop-ups can’t compete with the light-and-sound show of computer games and TV. Wired toddlers and preschoolers—or those who spend too much time zoning out in front of a TV screen—may have a harder time sitting still for words and pictures on a page. In fact, research has shown a 10 percent increase in the risk of attention problems later on for every hour per day of TV a tyke watches now. So limit TV time (the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time at all for the two-and-under set) and computer time. Using the TV for background noise? Power that off, too.

Nurture that love of reading, but don’t push it. If you’ve been a parent for any amount of time you know this above all: Pushing will get you nowhere. Not when it comes to using the potty, not when it comes to eating—and definitely not when it comes to reading. Make reading a part of your family’s daily routine—but also don’t forget to make it fun.

Heidi Murkoff is the author of the What To Expect series of pregnancy and parenting guides that have sold more than 34 million copies. The latest book in the series is What to Expect the Second Year: From 12 to 24 Months. Murkoff lives in Southern California with her husband, Erik, and two children.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon—or even a parenting author—to figure out how to raise a reader. All it takes is a cozy lap, a pair of loving arms, an open book and a few common-sense tips.

Read early. True, newborns don’t know a cat from a hat. And toddlers are more [...]

Behind the Book by

In Sarah Sentilles’ memoir Stranger Care, she writes beautifully about risking love, vulnerability and loss by becoming a foster parent. With the same care and attention, she shares how to tend your creativity and help it feel safe enough to flourish.

1. Set an intention

Before I begin a new writing project, I set an intention. My intention for Stranger Care was to write a love letter to our foster daughter, Coco, that would mother her when I’m no longer allowed to. I wanted to write a book that would help create a world where she’ll be safe and loved, no matter where she lands. Whenever I got scared while writing, whenever I wondered, What am I doing? What difference does it make?, I returned to my intention. And it grounded me, kept me going.

I learned this practice from my friend and teacher Juliana Jones-Munson. The intention should be personal and healing, she told me, not external or dependent on other people. Your intention should remind you why you write, and it should be powerful enough that everything else—what critics say, whether you sell it—pales in comparison.

2. Welcome first thoughts

During a writing workshop I took with Nick Flynn through Tin House, Nick had us do timed, constraint-based writing exercises by hand. This helped me learn to welcome first thoughts, my initial ideas, and helped me practice trusting myself. I took another workshop with Carolyn Forché, who was Nick’s teacher, too, and in that workshop at the Hedgebrook writing retreat center, she taught me to embrace generative writing.

Before that, I was an incessant reviser. I’d get stuck on the first paragraph or the first few pages of my manuscript, and every day I sat down to write, I would rework those. But Carolyn said, “Don’t revise. Don’t go back. Go forward.” She told me to write for three hours a day, to write whatever came to my mind. It didn’t matter. Just keep writing. And her directions unleashed a torrent of words.

Now when I start a new project, I write for three hours every day, for weeks and weeks and weeks. Only after that kind of generative writing do I begin to understand what I might be working on. And only then do my ideas begin to trust me to write them. Only then do they show themselves. I picture my ideas huddled in a cave in the back of my mind, and they send out scouts to see what will happen. “Let’s see how she treats this idea,” they whisper to one another, and then they push one forward. “Will she bludgeon it? Call it stupid? Think it’s garbage? Or will she write it down, put it on the page, tend it?” Your creativity is watching how you treat your ideas. It will only send more when it seems safe.

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our starred review of Stranger Care.

3. Be a magpie

When you’re working on something, whether it’s a memoir or a novel or a painting, act like a magpie and collect everything that shines. Or, to use another bird metaphor, be a bowerbird. Collect whatever helps you build a structure that will draw some future reader to you. In The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp calls this “scratching.” She writes, “I’m digging through everything to find something. It’s like clawing at the side of the mountain to get a toehold, a grip, some sort of traction to keep moving upward and onward.”

Write down the lyric you can’t get out of your head. Take notes about the story you heard on the radio that you can’t stop thinking about. Collect the poems that make you cry. Everything is connected to what you’re working on, even if it seems unconnected. If you find yourself drawn to an article about whale song, write about it. If you keep thinking about the fact that birds are dinosaurs, write about it. One writer I work with told me her story was getting cramped, as if her writing room were shrinking, but when she gave herself permission to invite other ideas into her writing—how clouds form, the history of rice, how a bud knows when to bloom—she felt like she’d opened a window and let the world in.  

4. Writing is the remedy

My saboteur, the voice that tries to stop me from writing, is a wily shape-shifter. My saboteur will say anything to keep me away from the page—that I’m a fraud, that people will hate me if I write this book or that essay, that I’m wasting my time, that my ideas are boring and derivative. I’m writing fiction now, so my saboteur sounds different than she does when I’m writing nonfiction. She’s taking a new approach, insisting the plot idea I have is too dramatic, over the top, dumb. You don’t know what you’re doing, she says to me every morning when I sit down to write. Who do you think you are? But as soon as I recognize that voice for what it is, her power evaporates. As soon as I start to write, she’s gone. And the more regular my writing practice is, the quieter that sabotaging voice is. Not writing gives my saboteur an opening, but all I need to do to close that door is touch the page. 

“Your creativity is watching how you treat your ideas. It will only send more when it seems safe.”

5. You don’t know what you’re writing until you have a draft

You can’t know what’s garbage and what’s gold until you’ve written your way through a draft. You can’t know what belongs in a project and what doesn’t in the beginning either, because you don’t know what you’re writing yet. Be patient. Hold your story loosely. Wait for it to show you what it wants to be. Listen. Write down all your ideas. Save everything, all your strange little fragments and scenes. Editing won’t happen until later.

So many of my writing clients say they aren’t sure what they’re writing yet, but can I help them find an agent? This, too, is putting the cart before the horse. How can you find the right agent for your book if it isn’t written yet? For me, the goal is to write the best possible book you can write and then assemble the team that understands what you’re trying to do and can help you do it better. I’ve worked with so many people who sold a book proposal for one kind of book only to realize they were actually writing a very different book. They weren’t writing a commercial self-help book at all; they were writing an intimate memoir about their childhood. They weren’t writing a memoir; they were writing a page turner of a thriller. But they’re stuck with a team who wants the book they proposed, not this other thing that their art has become. Let your art lead the way. Wait for it. The timing will be right and perfect.

6. Keep your writing to yourself

When I first started writing, I wanted to show everyone every new thing I wrote, like right away. I’d write a paragraph and show it to someone, anyone, to see what they liked and what they hated. But now I don’t show anyone what I’m writing until I’ve taken it as far as I can on my own, which sometimes means I don’t show anyone my writing for years. And then, when I think it might be ready, I show my agent, Molly Friedrich. And that’s pretty much it until we think the book is ready to be sold.

At its heart, writing means learning to listen for your voice—or for the voice that wants to come through you. That voice is hard to hear when you’re letting other readers and critics chime in all the time. Be monogamous with your writing. Keep it to yourself.

 “Our ideas come from deep within, and they come from the stars. Treat these visitors with love.”

7. Your story chose you

It occurred to me recently that when we worry our story idea isn’t good enough, it’s disrespectful to the idea. Thinking we’re not good enough to write it is also impolite. Our ideas come from deep within, and they come from the stars. Treat these visitors with love. Tend them.

Draw Your Weapons took me 10 years to write, and during one of those years, I complained to a friend, the writer Alice Dark, about how sick I was of working on that project, how ready I was to be done with it. “Sometimes we have to become the person our book needs us to be before we can finish it,” she said. Sometimes that becoming happens fast. Sometimes it takes a long time. But your story idea chose you. (Elizabeth Gilbert writes powerfully about this in Big Magic.) That idea knows you have everything you need to become the writer it needs.

8. Write first thing

I do my best writing in the morning, first thing. I don’t check my email or social media, and I don’t look at the news until I’ve done my writing. Sometimes I “forget” and check my phone when I’m still in bed, and on those days, I might as well put my brain in a barrel and light it on fire.

In Deep Work, Cal Newport makes a compelling argument about the need for undistracted, focused time for thinking and writing and problem-solving. It doesn’t happen when we multitask, or check email, or look at Instagram or Facebook or Twitter or whatever social media platform sucks up your time. I’m addicted to this stuff, and I know it impedes my creativity. When I step away from this never-ending stream of distraction, I can feel my mind reset. I can feel my internal emotional life settle. My thoughts and my time belong to me again.

Writing first thing is also connected to boundary-setting. We tend to think of boundaries as selfish, but really they’re generous. When you close your studio door or say no to an obligation or block out time for your art, you give other people permission to protect their time and space to follow their creative dreams. And if you’re a parent, your boundaries give your children the freedom to set boundaries, too. It shows them they can protect what’s important to them.

9. To turn toward your writing is to turn toward the world—and change it

I’ve spent a lot of time and energy believing that if I pay attention to what’s happening in the world, my attention can somehow make terrible things not happen. But it turns out I don’t have much control over what politicians do. Or corporations. Or governments. Or viruses. Or courts. But I do have control over what I write and dream and imagine. I have control over what kinds of activism and resistance I engage in. And I have control over where I put my energy. I can choose to put my creativity toward the kind of world I want to help bring into being.

So, experiment. Stay away from the news and see what happens when you don’t absorb all that panic and fear. I’m not saying don’t pay attention at all—but I am saying choose a different kind of attention. In A Swim in the Pond in the Rain, George Saunders writes that the aim of art is to ask big questions: 

How are we supposed to be living down here? What were we put here to accomplish? What should we value? What is truth, anyway, and how might we recognize it? How can we feel at peace when some people have everything and others have nothing? How are we supposed to live with joy in a world that seems to want us to love other people but then roughly separates us from them in the end, no matter what?

“It turns out I don’t have much control over what politicians do. . . . But I do have control over what I write and dream and imagine.”

To write well is to care for the world and the beings we share it with. To write well is to learn to live in the world in more just and life-giving ways. Matthew Salesses puts it another way in Craft in the Real World. “Craft is never neutral,” he writes. “Craft is the cure or injury that can be done in our shared world when it isn’t acknowledged that there are different ways that world is felt.” He continues, “Craft is support for a certain worldview. . . . Revision must also be the revision of craft. To be a writer is to wield and be wielded by culture.” Writing is political work.

10. Write through the hard stuff, even while it’s happening

When it became clear that our foster daughter Coco would be reunified with her biological mother, and when we’d have hard days in court or with the social worker or just walking around with our broken hearts, my husband, Eric, would look at me and my puffy eyes and say, “Go write.”

“I can’t,” I’d say.

“Go write,” he’d say again and point to my desk. I’m grateful to him. I’m grateful for those raw pages. I wrote Stranger Care in real time, and working on it brought Coco close, even when she wasn’t. I felt so helpless—I feel helpless still—but I find some agency in arranging words on a page, even when those words are, “She is gone.”

11. Your project is well supported

We don’t write alone. We write for the generations who came before us, and we write for the generations who will follow. One of the women who participated in the WORD CAVE, a four-day virtual writing retreat I offer, told me, “I write because my grandmother couldn’t.” What more powerful reason could there be?

Read our starred review of Stranger Care here.

With care and attention, Sarah Sentilles shares how to tend your creativity and help it feel safe enough to flourish.
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e’ve come a long way, baby Women’s History Month is a good time to reflect on the journey, on the many and varied trips some wilder than others that women have taken to get us where we are today. Who were the female characters to pave the way? And what are the issues still before us? While there are as many journeys as there are individuals, there are roles that we share, roles that (like it or not) define us and connect us through history.

A month is hardly enough time to tell our tales, but at the very least, Women’s History Month gives us reason to explore a few new and interesting books.

One of the most complicated roles women play is that of wife. Marilyn Yalom examines the Judeo-Christian tradition of marriage in A History of the Wife. To answer the question “what does it mean to be married at the turn of the century?” Yalom focuses on major changes in the marital status quo over time, ending with an intriguing analysis of a role that is still evolving. This book is made much more interesting by its focus on the wife, rather than the couple. What’s more, it’s an engaging, good read. Though clearly well researched, it is not filled with numbing statistics. The author spends ample time on that more contemporary aspect of marriage which can’t be quantified: love. Love, after all, “has become synonymous with marriage in the Western World.” But before we see too rosy a picture, Yalom reminds the reader that less palatable aspects of the married state still exist, even in our own society. Throughout, Yalom’s savvy and lively narration keeps the reader entertained.

The author is a distinguished cultural historian who is, by the way, married. Valuing motherhood It is said that mothers do this planet’s most critical work. If raising a child is America’s most important job, how can it simultaneously be the most undervalued? Ann Crittenden tackles this complicated issue in The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World Is Still the Least Valued. In the introduction, Crittenden explains why she had to write this book. She describes a personal moment of truth that came a few years after she resigned from The New York Times and a few months after the birth of her child, when someone asked her, “Didn’t you used to be Ann Crittenden?” Her description of suddenly “vanishing” upon becoming a mother probably hits home for many women, but there are many more reasons why we should all read The Price of Motherhood. I found myself alternately impassioned and discouraged by what I learned from Crittenden. She describes with passion and clarity how our society pays tribute to Mom in words while in reality systematically disadvantaging her (indeed, putting her at risk). Working women may have been liberated, she argues, but mothers were not. Perhaps most importantly, Crittenden challenges the argument that women’s liberation is responsible for devaluing motherhood. And finally, she includes as her closing chapter important and reasonable means to bring about the change mothers deserve. Crittenden aims her recommendations specifically at employers, government and husbands, but this is truly recommended reading for us all.

Crittenden is an award-winning journalist and author (including a Pulitzer Prize nomination) but in my mind what really qualifies her for the accomplishment of this book is what compelled her to write it in the first place. Writing from her own experience as professional woman and mother, Crittenden’s words are accurate, heartfelt and imminently readable.

Setting sail Many women will be wives and mothers. Far fewer will adventure in a pirate ship on the high seas, in solo flights across the Atlantic or on horseback in the Arabian desert. Author David Cordingly gives us a lesser known piece of women’s history in Women Sailors ∧ Sailors’ Women. Cordingly writes of women and the high seas in the 18th and 19th centuries, a subject about which there’s a surprising amount to tell. It is generally acknowledged that when men went to sea in the Great Age of Sail, women were left behind. In reality, however, a fair number of the fairer sex were aboard. Some openly so: wives of navy officers who mothered warship crews or wives of merchant captains who sometimes took command. The presence of others was kept secret: women disguised as men to serve their ship or country.

Even women left ashore had prominent parts to play in our seafaring history lighthouse keepers, for example, and the wives and prostitutes whose real lives in the ports-of-call are surprising in their own right. Cordingly also examines the place of women in legends and lore of the seas (figureheads, sirens, mermaids). But I found the most fascinating tales to be those of the ruthless female pirates like Hannah Snell and Mary Anne Talbot. Cordingly is also the author of an acclaimed history of piracy and for 12 years was on staff at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England. He clearly knows something of the lives of sailors; his knowledge, interest and good research are evident. He includes first person accounts from ship records and journals which makes the stories of Women Sailors ∧ Sailors’ Women vivid and fun.

Unconventional women Women’s History Month wouldn’t be complete without paying a visit to some of history’s most memorable female characters. That’s exactly what Barbara Holland does in They Went Whistling: Women Wayfarers, Warriors, Runaways, and Renegades. In this celebration of unconventional and adventurous women, Holland tells the stories of rebels such as Joan of Arc, George Sand, Mata Hari, Queen Jinga and my personal favorite, Amelia Earhart. Though most of these women are familiar, Holland’s portraits of them are carefully researched and categorized in interesting fashion. Chances are you’ll discover something new about these outlaws, grandstanders, seekers and radicals. Holland doesn’t hold out much hope that such figures will reappear anytime soon; she suggests that the 1960s saw the last of them, that “careers . . . keep women in line more effectively than policemen or repressive husbands.” But as hard as it is to imagine a modern-day Belle Starr our obstacles and environment may not be as dramatic this doesn’t have to make the Marion Joneses, the Madeleine Albrights and even the Madonnas any less inspiring. I’m willing to wager that in Women’s History Months to come, the 21st century will have contributed tales of our own female pioneers. The adventures continue.

Danica M. Jefferson is a new mom living in Baltimore.

e’ve come a long way, baby Women’s History Month is a good time to reflect on the journey, on the many and varied trips some wilder than others that women have taken to get us where we are today. Who were the female characters to pave the way? And what are the issues still before [...]

Mother’s Day is coming up, and these books are great for those who want to give or receive something more exciting than a greeting card. Memoirs about unconventional moms, artistic explorations of the mother-child bond and a new take on midlife make excellent food for thought—and crafting and design guides will inspire new creativity. These books celebrate motherhood in its many guises and, no matter what kind of mother you have (or are), offer something for everyone.

Ayelet Waldman, author of the Mommy-Track Mysteries series and two novels, is also known for her essays, including a New York Times piece in which she said she loved her husband more than her children. In a subsequent “Oprah” appearance, she emphasized that her love for husband Michael Chabon doesn’t negate her love for her children and that it’s OK to find motherhood frustrating and guilt-inducing. In Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace, Waldman calls for an end to unreasonable “supermom” expectations via well-written essays framed with political and historical context. While her style may be too over-the-top for some, she asks an important question: “Can’t we just try to give each other a break?”

Dreams from their mothers
In Not Becoming My Mother: And Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way, Ruth Reichl, memoirist and editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine, reveals that, the year her late mother would’ve turned 100, she decided to open a box of her mother’s diaries and letters. Reichl felt she had to, as recompense for using oft-hilarious stories about her mother (so-called “Mim Tales”) in her books. The result is a finely crafted recounting of her mother’s struggles as a woman who, although smart and accomplished, felt marriage was the only road to being acceptable. Nonetheless, Reichl writes, “Mom showed me that it is never too late to find out how to [be happy].”

Hollywood agent Sam Haskell grew up in Mississippi, where his mother Mary’s guidance laid the foundation for his entertainment career. Promises I Made My Mother, with a foreword by Ray Romano (one of Haskell’s clients), includes chapters based on her advice, including “Always Seek Understanding” and “(Don’t Be Afraid to) Stand in the Light.” It worked: Haskell went from the mailroom to Worldwide Head of TV at William Morris and created the “Mississippi Rising” benefit for Hurricane Katrina survivors, building strong relationships all the while.

Here’s looking at her
From New Jersey to Mumbai, LIFE with Mother captures all sorts of moments in motherhood. This photographic tribute offers images of mothers and children at play, on the way to school, at milestone ceremonies and more. Famous moms (including Shirley MacLaine and Diana, Princess of Wales) share the pages with not-so-famous ones, and text and quotes add dimension. Readers will smile at the book’s final, hopeful image: Michelle Obama and daughter Sasha, exuberant, at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

The Artist’s Mother: The Greatest Painters Pay Tribute to the Women Who Rocked Their Cradles takes a fine-art-inspired approach to the mother-child bond. National Book Award winner and New Yorker staff writer Judith Thurman notes in the introduction, “A mother’s gift is, ultimately, the example of steady, impartial discernment that each of us needs to create a self-portrait. And in whatever style they painted their mothers, the artists on these pages gratefully returned that deep gaze.” Indeed, these portraits—a museum-worthy collection including works by Constable, Picasso, Kahlo, Cassatt, Warhol, and, of course, Whistler—can only be the result of astute observation. Each entry includes insight about the painters’ and mothers’ lives, too.

Like a new woman
“Are you really going out like that?” is a question no one enjoys hearing. Longtime stylist Sherrie Mathieson is here to help with Steal This Style: Mothers and Daughters Swap Wardrobe Secrets. The “Never Cool” images are groan-inducing, but the “Forever Cool” photos depict women who look stylish and comfortable. Mathieson’s voice is friendly and respectful, and she honors the women’s taste by, say, preserving a jacket-shape but recommending a different color. This is a useful guide for women who want a clothing makeover.

For a full life makeover, Suzanne Braun Levine recommends setting new goals and enjoying one’s “second adulthood” in 50 is the New Fifty: 10 Life Lessons for Women in Second Adulthood. As the first managing editor of Ms. and a contributing editor to More, Levine knows her topic. She writes of the Fertile Void (a sort of emotional menopause) and Horizontal Role Models (women who have been there, done that) as important aspects of this exciting time. These terms explain commonalities among women, and the 10 lessons provide ways to consider and change individual situations. 50 is the New Fifty is an illuminating read for women of all ages.

Hi, Mom!
Doree Shafrir and Jessica Grose saw comedy in maternal email and text messages and started; two weeks later, the site had 100,000 unique visitors. The site is going strong, and now there’s a book based on the concept. Love, Mom: Poignant, Goofy, Brilliant Messages From Home contains 200 missives in categories like “I Do Actually Like Your Hair!” and “I Hope You Have a Hat With Ears.” The emails are a hoot, ranging from sex-related revelations to musings on recipes. A fun read for mom-email recipients and those who send them.

For designing mothers
The latest book from the Martha Stewart Living team is a DIYer’s delight. From beading to tin-punching, Martha Stewart’s Encyclopedia of Crafts: An A-Z Guide with Detailed Instructions and Endless Inspiration means readers will never again want for a project. Each topic (e.g., Botanical Pressing) includes a history of the craft, descriptions of tools and supplies, and projects (autumn-leaf curtain, pansy coasters, seaweed cards). Photos offer inspiration, and mini-tutorials should help prevent missteps. A crafting-table must-have.
Mothers-to-be can harness the nesting instinct with the aptly named Feathering the Nest: Tracy Hutson’s Earth-Friendly Guide to Decorating Your Baby’s Room by “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” design star Tracy Hutson. Mouth-watering photos of wonderfully appointed rooms are accompanied by expert advice on everything from refinishing furniture to choosing a mattress. There are how-tos, color palettes and sourcing details for four styles (vintage, contemporary, traditional and international). Eco-friendly options are on-point, and the final chapter—featuring the nursery in Hutson’s home—demonstrates that her book will help readers create a space that’s both kind to the Earth and welcoming to baby.

Linda M. Castellitto writes from North Carolina.

Mother’s Day is coming up, and these books are great for those who want to give or receive something more exciting than a greeting card. Memoirs about unconventional moms, artistic explorations of the mother-child bond and a new take on midlife make excellent food for thought—and crafting and design guides will inspire new creativity. These [...]

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Fatherhood is fascinating, frustrating, frightening and funny—and the wise man appreciates all four aspects. As another Father’s Day rolls around, five books offer insight and interest for fathers of all ages—as well as mothers, sons and daughters, too.

Fathers, sons and the game of golf
At the same time that boys turn into young men, their fathers often reach their own turning points. The boy of 16 is learning what sort of man he may become; the father in his 40s is discovering the difference between the man he thought he’d be and the man he is. In his latest book, A Son of the Game: A Story of Golf, Going Home, and Sharing Life’s Lessons, golf writer and journalist James Dodson weaves together both these journeys, wrapped in a story of homecoming and the love of an ancient game. The tale begins as Dodson, disillusioned with golf journalism, returns to Pinehurst, North Carolina, “the home of golf in America,” to bid goodbye to a dying friend. Set amid the pine-covered sand hills between the mountains and the sea, Pinehurst is a home of sorts to Dodson, a place where he first learned the game of golf from his own father. When an opportunity to join a small regional newspaper arises, Dodson ponders it as a cure for his jaded soul—but worries how his family will respond, in particular his teenage son, Jack. There is conflict for both, but as father and son build a connection on the golf course, the “Pinehurst cure” leads them to a better understanding of themselves and each other. A Son of the Game is a magical memoir of midlife crisis, teenage uncertainty and the power of a legacy gently handed down. Whether you love the game of golf or can’t tell a sand wedge from a six iron, Dodson’s book will put the spell of Pinehurst on your heart—a spell that is simply the call of home.

From one dad to another
Children do not become teenagers overnight, and dads are not 40 in an instant. Fatherhood stretches for many years, and is experienced by men in many different ways. The Book of Dads: Essays on the Joys, Perils and Humiliations of Fatherhood, edited by Ben George, collects essays and memories about fatherhood from an assortment of writers, including Clyde Edgerton and Rick Bragg. Some of the accounts are pure humor, others are poignant, but all offer a fascinating record of ideas, attitudes and approaches to fatherhood. One wishes the collection were somewhat broader—the authors seem to share similar ideologies, with very little diversity in their views—but the essays themselves are well written and fascinating to read.

Lessons for survival
A consistent theme in the previous books is how fathers prepare their children to survive in life. Norman Ollestad’s Crazy for the Storm: A Memoir of Survival recounts the author’s experience of his own father’s unconventional approach to parenting, and how it led to the boy’s ability to survive in a situation his father had not planned—the crash of their chartered Cessna into a mountainside. Ollestad cuts back and forth between his travels with his surfer father, his life with his mother and her abusive boyfriend, and his fight for life as the lone survivor of the plane crash. It is a story of both a father’s successes and his failures, and is as much about surviving the actions of child-like adults as about the dangerous descent down the ice-covered mountain. At times beautiful, at times heart-wrenching, Crazy for the Storm is a commanding read—a tale that proves the power of the human spirit can rise against any challenge, and a father’s legacy can be larger than he imagines.

Norman Ollestad didn’t have Hawke’s Green Beret Survival Manual during his mountain ordeal, but he lived the most important part of it: “Never quit!” It is Myke Hawke’s first rule of survival, and his book tells how to apply it in the worst possible situations. Hawke served as a Green Beret for 25 years, rising from enlisted man to officer. His specialty: survival. Hawke’s book is full of techniques and instructions on everything from building shelters to identifying edible plants. And his advice covers situations from surviving the wilderness to dangerous urban environments—including gangs, riots, even a nuclear aftermath—and includes a strong dose of expert philosophy on the nature of survival. Hawke doesn’t just study survival, he has lived it, both as a soldier and as a 14-year-old boy abandoned to the winter streets of urban Virginia. Hawke is a survivor—and if you take his advice, when worse comes to worse, you can be too.

The best of ESPN
Lastly, fatherhood isn’t all about seriousness or survival. It’s also about having fun. And if your father is the type for whom “fun” means “sports,” you could do worse than to give him The ESPN Mighty Book of Sports Knowledgeedited by Steve Wulf. Instead of a collection of stats, this book is a delightful hodgepodge of trivia, essays and tips—like how to throw a Whiffle ball and strategies for winning Rock, Paper, Scissors. There are also accounts of great sports moments, lists of best (and worst) sports movies, and such essential items as a tour of Donovan McNabb’s locker. The contributors range from athletes to coaches, and the stories stretch from the poignant to the peculiar (like the time a lacrosse team fielded a six-foot-five-inch, 600-pound goalie). Fathers and kids (and like-minded mothers) will enjoy this crazy little mix of knowledge. After all, where else can you learn legendary basketball coach John Wooden’s rules for putting on socks? That’s the sort of stuff a father loves to pass on—especially if it drives a kid nuts.

Howard Shirley is a writer who is surviving fatherhood in Franklin, Tennessee.

Fatherhood is fascinating, frustrating, frightening and funny—and the wise man appreciates all four aspects. As another Father’s Day rolls around, five books offer insight and interest for fathers of all ages—as well as mothers, sons and daughters, too.

Fathers, sons and the game of golf
At the same time that boys turn into young [...]

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The anticipation and excitement surrounding the arrival of a baby can be felt to some degree by all ages. However, younger children’s expectations may quickly turn to disappointment when the newborn infant does not walk, talk, or play games. Expectant parents find it challenging, trying to educate and prepare themselves; how can children be taught to appreciate, at some level, the accomplishments of a baby? Penny Gentieu’s latest book, Grow! Babies! encourages younger readers to appreciate and understand babies by photographing and chronicling 19 different babies’ benchmarks of growth during their first year of life. The concise, informative sentences can hold even the shortest attention spans. The varied use of color and size in the adorable photographs, as well as the printed text, appeals to the curiosity in readers of all ages. The babies photographed in the book represent a cultural cross section of our society.

Since babies are a source of fascination for both younger and older readers, Grow! Babies! is truly an ageless book that can be shared and enjoyed by the entire family. It is easy to imagine a child picking out one of the babies and flipping through the pages, paying attention to that particular baby’s growth and changes. The expressions on each of the babies’ faces are priceless. It is impossible to look through this book without smiling, or oohing and ahhing. Grow! Babies! is a wonderful addition to any collection of children’s books, or for any expectant parents. Penny Gentieu has once again captured cherished moments in the development of children for all to see and enjoy.

Alicia D. Wall is an elementary school teacher and, at press time, an expectant mother of triplets.

The anticipation and excitement surrounding the arrival of a baby can be felt to some degree by all ages. However, younger children’s expectations may quickly turn to disappointment when the newborn infant does not walk, talk, or play games. Expectant parents find it challenging, trying to educate and prepare themselves; how can children be taught [...]

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Meet some of the best parenting books of the year so far, culled from the gravid shelves at BookPage. Selected on individual merit, this disparate grouping nonetheless suggests a pattern: truth. These new books seem to concern themselves with rooting out truth no matter how entrenched the myth, how muddled the syndrome, how white the lie, and all entirely to our favor. Truth can be shocking. For example, what we thought was OK for kid’s health is bad, and what we thought was bad is actually OK. Or, we learn our ideals of the “good” mother and the “good” girl must be radically redefined. Or, we find the real nitty-gritty coming home with a newborn is not quite what we expected. Still, these books are just what the doctor should order: a frank, fearless and sometimes very funny heads-up. Of course, the ultimate parenting truth is that we all want to succeed, and with selections like these, we have a pretty good chance.

How often have you heard these health facts: burns are best treated with ice, wounds should “air out” at night, spinach is a good source of iron, and teething can cause high fever? Guess what? These facts are fiction: baby myths, if you will. Pediatrician Andrew Adesman heard these and hundreds of other baby myths so often, he felt duty-bound to write a book: Babyfacts: the Truth About Your Child’s Health From Newborn Through Preschool. How about: raw carrots improve vision, green mucous always indicates a bacterial infection and cupcakes make kids hyper? Again, not true. If you are surprised, you aren’t alone: a pilot study showed a shocking number of pediatricians are just as credulous about these pervasive myths as the rest of us. Adesman deftly debunks the most common nuggets of misinformation in an easy-to-use, absorbing reference.

Open in case of emergency
The next book debunks myths too, but it specializes in how to distinguish a real emergency from a routine situation or a false alarm. Emergency room pediatrician Lara Zibners has the street cred to teach parents when a trip to the ER is a must, a maybe or a wait-and-see, and ditto for a regular acute office visit. In If Your Kid Eats This Book, Everything Will Still Be Okay, Dr. Zibners covers every category likely to be a concern at some point: newborn issues, skin, guts, “plumbing,” allergies, wounds, fever, head injuries and so on. The range is immense (and realistic): swallowed fish-tank gravel, super-glued body parts, high fevers or major trauma, she’s been there. A nice touch is the author’s overriding assertion that parents should always trust intuition: we know our own children best. Keep a copy in the medicine cabinet for quick, straightforward advice when you need it most.

In the trenches
Former war photojournalist Deborah Copaken Kogan is back with more stories from the family front. Picking up where her best-selling memoir Shutterbabe left off, Kogan weaves past and present into a wry portrait of real life at home. In Hell Is Other Parents: and Other Tales of Maternal Combustion the author confronts family challenges that make covering carnage in Afghanistan (which she has done) seem easy by comparison. Her frank take on Mommy & Me classes, life as a reluctant stage mother and encounters with parents who espouse decidedly different childrearing philosophies (i.e. helicopter parents) is delightful. So too are her flashbacks to younger and wilder days: days before she and her family of five must squeeze into a two-bedroom Manhattan apartment and get by on a freelancer’s pittance. Above all, do not miss the chapter about sharing a room in the maternity ward with the world’s rudest postpartum teenager.

Instruction manual
New moms and moms-to-be, meet your new best friend. Claudine Wolk, author of It Gets Easier! And Other Lies We Tell New Mothers, tells it (and all of it) like it really is: pregnancy, childbirth and those first, foggy baby months. Never mind all the other advice that will inevitably bombard the pregnant and postpartum: listen to her. Wolk, a mother of three, interviewed hundreds of women to find the real deal: the most helpful tips, most urgent issues and most practical solutions for the transition to motherhood. The three big common concerns—sleep, schedule and guilt—are covered in great detail, but each chapter is packed with invaluable, uncensored advice on absolutely everything. This book is precisely what the subtitle claims: “a fun, practical guide to becoming a mom.” Where, oh where was it when my two kids were new? A must for baby shower and new mom gifts.

The confident parent
Parents who have made it past the baby stage are ready for Jen Singer, award-winning mommy blogger and author of You’re a Good Mom. Singer’s new series began this spring with the publication of Stop Second-Guessing Yourself: The Toddler Years, and continues with the September release of Stop Second-Guessing Yourself: The Preschool Years. Singer’s cheery, no-nonsense style helps parents navigate the challenges unique to the three- to five-year-old set (or, as she calls them, “tiny teens in light-up sneakers”). Combining her own experiences with those of veteran moms from her website,, she gives the support, advice and insights most of us desperately need. Note the reassuring reader-contributed “It Worked for Me” and “Okay, I Admit It” boxes sprinkled throughout.

Giving girls voice
Rachel Simmons broke new ground with Odd Girl Out, the best-selling exploration of bullying among girls. With The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls With Courage and Confidence she turns her lens to the insidious myth of the Good Girl: a narrow and unrealistic model of female perfection. Far too many girls equate self-esteem with being “good”: thinking and acting only in modest, polite, conscientious and selfless ways. Such a limited repertoire of acceptable feelings limits the healthy development of real self esteem, body image and overall confidence, and prevents girls from cultivating potential. The pattern can start in early childhood and expand throughout life, affecting choices in education, career, relationships and family life, as well as a sense of purpose and worth. Simmons presents case studies and research to illustrate the complexities of the Good Girl syndrome, as well as numerous strategies we can all undertake to encourage the authentic inner—and ultimately outer—voice of girls.

Joanna Brichetto objects to the word “parent” used as a verb, but she parents a teen and a toddler, anyway.

Meet some of the best parenting books of the year so far, culled from the gravid shelves at BookPage. Selected on individual merit, this disparate grouping nonetheless suggests a pattern: truth. These new books seem to concern themselves with rooting out truth no matter how entrenched the myth, how muddled the syndrome, how white the [...]

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Maya Stern was a firsthand witness to her husband’s brutal murder by a pair of thieves, so how is it possible that he would be seen days later, playing with her two-year-old daughter, on footage captured by a nanny cam? Finding the answer, and perhaps even her husband, propels the riveting narrative of Harlan Coben’s new thriller, Fool Me Once.

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