Thursday, May 6, 2010

Do you have a parenting collection?

I do. It's very utilitarian, and lately I've been trying to jazz it up. Especially because if you looked at the shelves now, you would think that parenting was composed of potty training your children, taking them to the doctor and dentists, helping them understand death and divorce, disciplining them, and then teaching them to read at a 6th grade level and appreciate Classical music before entering school. Chilling, isn't it?

So I've found a number of jazzy titles, and I'm now putting them on the shelf like bait to see which ones get snapped up.

Mad Hungry. Lucinda Scala Quinn. The design on this one grabbed me, plus I've been reading a lot of books on boys' and girls' learning differences, so why not investigate their eating differences? However, I found the writing so annoying that I had to take it home and complain about it to my boyfriend. The author is constantly singing her own praises, how her home is always full of the scent of fresh baked bread and her boys are always thanking her for raising them to be healthy and strong men, and Quinn is only cooking for the stereotypical constantly hungry, bacon-loving, salad-hating man child. Thanks for reinforcing the stereotype.

But! I do like how she encourages people to add interesting ingredients without harping on "authenticity" in various cuisines. Sort of like my mom, who liked to put grated carrots in everything. I remember my brother stirring his chili and inquiring, "Are these Mexican carrots?" So the book annoys me, but it's so attractive, and it is still at my house because there are a few more recipes I have to try ...

Hungry Monkey: A Food-lover's Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater. Matthew Amstur-Burton. Bizarrely, I read an excerpt of this on NPR and was so taken in by the humor and wise thoughts on balancing family life and personal pursuits that I checked it out so I could continue reading! This is weird, because I don't have children, so I don't have the problem of catering to their limited palates, nor am I a foodie. But something about the writing just got me. And it's such a relief to read about someone striking a happy medium between giving children injections of red dye number whatever and only feeding them vegetables you have personally pulled from the Earth.

Bad Mother. Ayelet Waldman. I expected this book to be snarky, or for the author to be a wild child turned domestic goddess. It was so much gentler and more grounded than I expected, but still funny. And it's not advice. It's what's called "narrative nonfiction" in writing classes.

OMG--stop right there! If all those books were actually checked in right now, I could make the best spine poem ever!

Moving on.

The Creative Family. Amanda Blake Soule. This book won me over when I got to the section on homemade toys and it offered 6 questions you could ask about the toys your children play with: is it beautiful? is it simple? what is it made of? what senses does it use? how is it organized? is there too much?

I thought these questions were to-the-point and could be applied to many things (like a library space!). So although some the projects in this book might only appeal to sewers or home-schooling parents (because of the level of involvement), I liked the philosophy. And the projects did seem like things the author had actually done with her children--not just things she made up for the book or found in other books. A sampling: henna tattoos, nature tables, sewing cards, freezer paper stencils (for decorating t-shirts).

Mixed: Portraits of Multi-Racial Kids. Kip Fulbeck and Cher. This one hasn't come in yet--I just ordered it. It appears to be sort of a small coffee table book. Arty. It's photography of multi-racial kids with little bits of text from the kids or their parents. Possibly, it will seem cheesy when I hold it in my hands, but it might be an interesting book to share with your kids when you talk about race?

Salad People and More Real Recipes. Mollie Katzen. I know there are a lot of food books on this list, but this one is a standout and a favorite of mine. It's a cookbook for pre-readers with adorable visual instructions for making simple foods. The foods often have a sculpture aspect, and include a mix of familiar and unusual foods. Mollie Katzen is from the famous Moosewood vegan restaurant in Ithaca, NY, where I went to college, and she never fails me.

So are there other general interest books out there that could be re-purposed for my parenting collection?

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