Tag Archives: parenting

Books: How To Be Happy: My Child – My Friend by Helena Angel

As is often the case, I received this book free for the purposes of review. This time because it’s on offer from Amazon for exactly nothing until March 24th of 2016.

The nutshell on this book is pretty simple. It’s a brief (20 minute) parenting book that boils down pretty easily to the idea that parenting should be about letting your children, within bounds, be free to figure out who they are and what they should become as adults.

To the positive, at a high level the book is reasonably correct in its assertions. It cautions strongly against the twin parenting issues of trying to live your child’s life for them and that overly passive parenting style in which the TV does most of the child rearing. The intentions of the book are positive and strong and would benefit some of society’s most extreme parents.

Unfortunately, there’s much to be said to the negative. Firstly, the title is misleading and starts things out on a poor footing. Children should not be looked upon as friends. The active and sometimes corrective relationship that defines good parenting is not compatible with the concept of friendship as commonly used in America. Also, while the book is well intentioned, I’m not sure that the majority of parents are going to glean anything new from it. Those on the edges will find something new to them but most parents already know what do to be at least this good at parenting. They just choose not to do it.

From a technical and writing perspective, the book is a bit of a shambles. It’s littered with typographical and grammar issues and the formatting is wobbly at best. The author has invested in some stock photos that do serve to break things up a bit but it falls pretty short of professional. If I had paid money for this book (anything over a buck) then I’d be fairly cranky about it.

In summary, there’s some good, but basic, parenting information in this little guide and it’s not a complete waste of time but it could use some tidying up and doesn’t go much into depth. It merely skims across the surface of this very important topic.


Rob Slaven

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A Spoonful of Sugar: A Nanny’s Story by Brenda Ashford

A Spoonful of Sugar: A Nanny's StoryA Spoonful of Sugar: A Nanny’s Story by Brenda Ashford

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As is my usual preamble, I received this book for the fat sum of exactly nothing because of a GoodReads giveaway. Despite that kind consideration my candid opinions follow.

The summary of this one is easy. Our author is 92 and for 62 of those years she has dedicated her life to taking care of children. In that time I daresay she’s seen it and done it all and she shares some of those experiences and wisdom in her book.

My first concern on cracking open this book was that it would be rather whitewashed. When you liken your life to the story of Mary Poppins in your subtitle, this seems a fairly reasonable concern. I was delighted to see though that she does not take this tact. Most certainly her life was a primarily happy one dedicated to her craft but she’s not afraid to share some of the darker times with her readers too. Her memoirs are refreshingly honest and complete. We’re treated to the good and the bad, a life as balanced as any.

The second concern was that the author might be preachy but again, Ashford speaks with well-earned wisdom and she’s not afraid to state an opinion but she is anything but preachy. Her delivery of parental correction is gentle, effective and well-practiced. She’s like the benevolent grandparent that you listen to because they’ve been rearing children for three times longer than you’ve been alive. She clearly and emphatically points out examples of bad parenting but does so with a glowing benevolence that’s hard to resist. This is the sort of person you’d like to sit down and talk to for months at a time.

In addition to sharing her life and her wisdom, our author also shares some recipes and provides us with a history lesson. While skillfully avoiding the pedantic tone of many history lessons she illustrates in vivid color how child-rearing has changed over several decades. She not only appreciates the advantages of modern parents (no more heating an iron on the stove) but also the pitfalls of the internet and other modern temptations.

In summary, Ashford’s book is part memoir, part history lesson, part recipe book and part parenting guide. Her presentation is gentle and inspiring but not afraid to be opinionated. In her 62 years on the job she’s earned the right to tell parents how they should raise happy, healthy children and she’s knows how to pass along her knowledge. While it would be cliche to say that this is a “must-read” for any new parent, I would say that it certainly couldn’t hurt. If even on parent remembers to just sit on the floor and play with their child because of Ashford’s careworn wisdom then the world will be a better place. Just plain exceptional.

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