Sticks and Stones by Emily Bazelon – Book Review

Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy by Emily Bazelon
Published by Random House

The big bad wolf in the raising of teenagers today is cyber bullying. If you believe Emily Bazelon, however, cyber bullying is not a new thing. It is, she claims, essentially nothing more than plain old bullying, moved to a new venue. What, then, is bullying? In Sticks and Stones, Bazelon unpacks the issue of bullying through three case studies, discussing interventions, suicide, and, of course, the role of the internet.

Honestly, I’m not sure I would have ever picked this one up had I not been interviewing Bazelon about it for the SheKnows Book Lounge. I expected Sticks and Stones to either be self-help-y or to be a dry recitation of the facts of bullying. Happily, it is neither. Instead, Sticks and Stones is a book that realistically delves into a difficult and complex issue. The case studies bring real people and real faces to the problem of bullying, and on both sides of the issue. It helps her unpack the school cultures that contribute to bullying, as well as what, if anything, can help in such situations.

Beyond being a well organized informative book, Sticks and Stones is also simply a compelling read. Bazelon has a great style, and knows exactly how much she can insert herself in the story without detracting from the facts she hopes to impart. Even without any current personal vested interested in precisely what goes on in high schools, I did not want to put Sticks and Stones down. Between Bazelon’s engaging prose and her ability to get to the heart of why exactly this issue is important, she had me hooked.

Very highly recommended.

For more, see my interview with Emily Bazelon in the SheKnows Book Lounge.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Author’s publicist.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2013

Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman – Audiobook Review

Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman, narrated by Abby Craden
Published in audio by Random House Audio, an imprint of Random House; published in print by Penguin Press, an imprint of Penguin

If you reviewed an audiobook today, Tuesday, June 26th please leave your link in the Mr. Linky before midnight Central time (US) and you will be eligible to win a prize.

Synopsis:

Pamela Druckerman is an American woman married to a British man and living in Paris. When their daughter was a year old, the family took a vacation that necessitated eating out in restaurants every night. As most parents of a one year old can probably imagine, that didn’t go particularly well, particularly since they were eating nice places, not the the French equivalent of family chain restaurants. As she sat there, trying to figure out how to  keep her child entertained, Druckerman began to realize that the other toddlers in the restaurant were waiting calmly for their food and eating whatever was put in front of them. Since French parenting is not mythologized like their wine and cheese, it took her some time to realize what was going on, but eventually she began to pay closer attention to what the French parents around her were doing.

Thoughts on the story:

Bringing Up Bebe is a fascinating look at cultural differences in parenting, but it is not, strictly speaking, a parenting book. Druckerman is not holding French parenting up as the be all and end all of parenting, but as a consistent ideology that produces relatively consistent results, the results that are desired by these French parents. I can definitely see why this book has been somewhat controversial: many of the French parenting techniques are anti-attachment parenting, which is a huge trend in the United States at the moment; in addition, many of the stories she tells of American parents in Manhattan and Brooklyn are ridiculous in the extreme, and not really the norm of American parenting. Of course, since she is primarily studying Parisian parents, perhaps comparing them to New York parents of the same general social strata is, indeed, fair. Overall, though, Bringing Up Bebe offers interesting insights and ideas and is also fascinating simply as a cultural comparison of parenting styles.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Abby Craden does a wonderful job narrating Bringing Up Bebe. Her accents are good and her narrative style engaging, but most of all, I frequently forgot that I was listening to a hired narrator, and not simply Druckerman relating her observations. The ability to seamlessly blend into the story is, perhaps, the highest praise that I can give a narrator of memoirs. In becoming Druckerman, Craden brings this personal and parental account vividly to life.

Overall:

A fascinating book, you may want to have Bringing Up Bebe in print to refer back to some ideas, but I do recommend listening to Abby Craden narrate.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Audio/Print*
Indiebound: Audio/Print*

Source: Library.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2012

Save Me by Lisa Scottoline – Audiobook Review

Save Me by Lisa Scottoline, narrated by Cynthia Nixon
Published in audio by Macmillan Audio, published in print by St. Martin’s Griffin, both imprints of Macmillan

Synopsis:

In an attempt to protect her bullied daughter, Rose McKenna volunteers as a school lunch mom. After witnessing an emotional attack on Melly, her shy 3rd grader, Rose is attempting to reason with Melly’s tormentors when an explosion rocks the lunch room. Suddenly  Rose must decide whether to save the three girls in front of her, or whether to go off in search of Melly, who she is reasonably sure is hiding in the handicapped bathroom adjacent to the kitchen, where the explosion seems to have come from. Rose’s decision at this crucial point first finds her hailed as a hero, but soon reports come in of another injury, and Rose becomes the most demonized woman in her small town. How can she balance assuaging her guilt, protecting her family, and avoiding being sued?

Thoughts on the story:

Scottoline doesn’t pull any punches with Save Me. The story opens with Rose as lunch mom, and the ensuing explosion. The horror of the fire and of attempting to rescue your child are immediate. It is quite an opening, throwing the reader straight into the midst of Rose’s now-chaotic life. It is really pretty brutal for awhile, Rose is continually beaten down by the feeling that she could and should have done more, she is mobbed by reporters, and often talked down to by her own husband. In some ways. the turn Save Me  eventually takes is a relief, a break from the gut-wrenching guilt, pain, and misery that has come to characterize Rose’s life. At the same time, however, the end of Save Me seems to become almost another book entirely, as Rose delves into the surprising cause of the fire.

Thoughts on the audio production:

In all honesty, I was a bit terrified at the idea of listening to Cynthia Nixon for 8 hours. Don’t get me wrong, I like her and have nothing against her voice, but I had visions (auditory hallucinations?) of not being able to hear anything but Sex and the City‘s Miranda for the entire book. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Nixon really is a capable narrator. My only real problem with her performance was her voice for Melly, which sounded masculine and a bit gravelly instead of young. The audio also highlighted for me a couple of textual annoyances that I would likely not have noticed if I had been reading the book. One was the constant mention of the klieg lights, whenever the reporters hovered around Rose, and the other was the fact that Rose seemed to be completely and annoyingly incapable of keeping her cell phone charged.

Overall:

I think many readers will find Save Me highly enjoyable in either print or audio.

Save Me is the SheKnows Book Club pick for March. If you’ve read it, join us for a discussion on Lisa Scottoline’s Facebook page from 8-9 pm Eastern on Thursday, March 29th.

 

 

Buy this book from:
Powells: Audio/Print*
Indiebound: Audio/Print*

I’m launching a brand-new meme every Friday! I encourage you to review any audiobooks you review on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2012

Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina – Book Review

Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five by John Medina
Published by Pear Press

As a (now former) teacher and a math/science nerd, my husband has a significant fascination with brain-based learning research, thus it was only natural that he read John Medina’s Brain Rules, followed by his Brain Rules for Baby. When we found out that we are expecting this summer (before we learned that we are expecting twins), he pulled Brain Rules for Baby off of his shelf and stuck it at the top of my TBR pile, then proceeded to pester me about it any time he saw me reading anything else at all.

Here’s the publisher’s description of exactly what the book is about:

What’s the single most important thing you can do during pregnancy? What does watching TV do to a child’s brain? What’s the best way to handle temper tantrums? Scientists know.

In his New York Times bestseller Brain Rules, Dr. John Medina showed us how our brains really work—and why we ought to redesign our workplaces and schools. Now, in Brain Rules for Baby, he shares what the latest science says about how to raise smart and happy children from zero to five. This book is destined to revolutionize parenting. Just one of the surprises: The best way to get your children into the college of their choice? Teach them impulse control.

Brain Rules for Baby bridges the gap between what scientists know and what parents practice. Through fascinating and funny stories, Medina, a developmental molecular biologist and dad, unravels how a child’s brain develops – and what you can do to optimize it.

I am very conflicted as to how I felt about Brain Rules for Baby. On the one hand, it is full of fascinating and potentially helpful information for parents to understand how their children’s brains work and how their choices can influence their children’s brain development. On the other hand, it often comes off as if Medina is talking down to parents and Holy Mother of Metaphors is it ever overwritten. As far as the talking down, I don’t think that this was a purposefully disparaging move on Medina’s part. As a developmental molecular biologist he clearly needed to phrase things in layman’s terms to make it accessible to most parents, but I think he underestimated the education of parents who would be interested in a book on brain-based learning and parenting and often oversimplified or over-explained.

The overwriting may also be a symptom of Medina’s not knowing exactly how to approach the audience of this book. The main problem with his prose (there may have been others, but this one drove me so to distraction that it was all I could do at times to glean the important information he was presenting, syntax and the like were beyond me at that point) is his severe overuse on metaphors. There is a general, overarching gardening metaphor that in and of itself could be quite useful, and might of been had he primarily stuck to that. Instead, he seemed to just use whatever metaphor presented itself first for any general topic – at times I counted up to four discrete metaphors on a single page. In addition, many of the metaphors used are not particularly edifying, but instead add an additional layer that needs parsing, such the explanation, below, of the workings of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex:

This is oversimplified, but think of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex as the Golden Gate Bridge, connecting San Francisco (emotions) to its northern neighbor, Marin County (just the facts, Ma’am). Here’s how some scientists think the traffic generally flows:

  1. An emotional reaction occurs. When a child’s brain is confronted with a moral dilemma, San Francisco is alerted first. The child’s deep, mostly unconscious circuitry generates an emotional reaction – a Post-it note.
  2. The signal is carried across the bridge. That message is spirited across the VMPFC, the cellular Golden Gate connecting lower and higher centers of the brain.
  3. Fact centers analyze it and decide what to do. The signal arrives at the neuroanatomical equivalent of Marin County. The child’s brain reads the note and makes up its mind about what to do. It judges right from wrong, critical from trvial, necessary from elective, and ultimately lands upon some behavioral course of action. The decision is executed.
    – p. 233-234

That reference to a Post-it note comes from a metaphor Medina utilizes earlier in the chapter. I really think he’s making this much wordier and more complicated than it needs to be. Perhaps he feels that the metaphor makes it easier to remember, which might be the case if they were used sparingly and if they were much simpler, but in this case it simply distracted me from what he was really trying to get across.

Now, I don’t want the writing issues to completely overshadow the fact that Brain Rules for Baby really is chock full of interesting and useful information about the brain development of children in utero to about five years old. There is enough good stuff here that I would tentatively recommend it to parents of small children interested in developing their parenting style around brain-based research, but I wouldn’t ever pick it up just to learn fun and interesting new things, because of the annoyances of the writing.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Personal copy.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2012

Parents Need to Eat Too by Debbie Koenig – Book Review

Parents Need to Eat Too: Nap-Friendly Recipes, One-Handed Meals, and Time-Saving Kitchen Tricks for New Parents by Debbie Koenig
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks

The time after a new baby enters the house is a tricky one for parents who want to eat something not originally from the freezer section of the grocery store. There’s so much to do with an infant in the house and so much uncertainty about how and when to do it. It seems that things should get easier as the baby gets a bit older, but it isn’t only infants who want to be held, to be able to see and touch whichever parent is attempting to prepare a meal. My son is 2.5, and it is really only recently that cooking has gotten fairly easy again, he’s happy to sit and play with something in the next room while I prepare food, until then it could only happen easily if someone else was home to distract him. As I contemplate adding two more little ones to our household this summer, the idea of what on earth we’re going to eat is in the forefront of my mind. I’m hoping to freeze a lot of things ahead of time, but that also requires us to get moved into a new house sooner rather than later and to get a large freezer that can hold all of these things. Plus, there are times when you just don’t want one of the same old dishes you made a giant batch of and have had on rotation for weeks.

Enter Debbie Koenig’s new cookbook: Parents Need to Eat Too.

Parents Need to Eat Too is a cookbook specifically designed for the parents of young children. There are extremely simple recipes, recipes already divided up for you for nap time prep, slow cooker recipes, meals you can easily eat with one hand, and recipes that promote lactation for mothers who are breastfeeding. Perhaps the most helpful aspects of the book, though, are Koenig’s list of essential ingredients in the beginning (someone may get sent to the store with the book right before the twins arrive) and the tips on turning each and every recipe into baby food. Yes, you read that right, every recipe can be used as baby/toddler food. This, to me, was almost revelatory. We made most of Daniel’s babyfood, but it was usually an all-day Saturday sort of thing, cooking and pureeing vegetable after vegetable and freezing them all. You know what is easier than that? FEEDING YOUR KID WHAT YOU ARE EATING. Not only does it simply involve a little extra prep time instead of getting something completely different, if you know you won’t finish your leftovers, guess what? You can turn them into baby food and freeze them for later.

Another thing I appreciated about Koenig’s book is the gustatory diversity. This is by no means a cookbook of casseroles. There are a number of Asian and Indian-inspired meals, such as the Chana Masala. Koenig freely admits that many of these recipes aren’t particularly authentic, particularly since she is aiming for things that are fast and easy to make, but they are delicious. I made her fried rice last weekend, and I must say that it simply knocked the socks off my own version (it seems the delicious secret is sesame oil, yum!).

I think Parents Need to Eat Too (and maybe some of the dry ingredients from Koenig’s list) would make a wonderful gift for a new parent, or really anyone with young children. Highly recommended.

If you need more convincing, here’s Koenig herself talking about the book:

I also have one copy for a lucky reader with a US mailing address. This copy will be sent out by HarperCollins. Please enter on the form below by noon Eastern on Tuesday, February 28.

FORM

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2012