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The Reflective Parent: How to Do Less and Relate More with Your Kids

Regina Pally. Norton, $25.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-393-71133-2

Psychiatrist Pally (The Mind-Brain Relationship) centers her gentle, thoughtful, and non-judgmental parenting approach around “reflective capacity”—the ability to understand other people’s behaviors and responses as products of their internal mental states. By increasing empathy, she seeks to improve the central relationship between parent and child. Pally’s choice to couch the justifications for her philosophy in introductory “brain basics” neurobiology is misplaced; the space occupied by that shallow science might be better used for exercises or additional parenting examples. However, she does have valuable insights into social psychology, the developing child mind, and how parenting style is affected by one’s own childhood. Pally guides parents on how to take on the adult responsibilities of setting boundaries while using reflection to adjust responses to the child’s needs and perspective. At the end of each chapter she gives examples of things parents can say to children, which adds to the book’s usability. Illustrative “Stories of Parents and Children” feel stylized, and though her ideas are compassionate, Pally’s voice is that of a teacher and not a peer. This tone works with her message of balance as a key to strong relationship building, but lacks the warmth some parents may need to feel supported. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Happiest Kids in the World: A Stress-Free Approach to Parenting—the Dutch Way

Rina Mae Acosta and Michele Hutchison. The Experiment, $15.95 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-61519-390-5

American blogger Acosta (Finding Dutchland), and Hutchison, a British translator of Dutch literature, provide their own perspective on the 2013 UNICEF study reporting Dutch children are the world’s happiest. Both authors are expats married to Dutchmen and raising their children in the Netherlands. They noticed the country’s relaxed parenting style and the confident, well-adjusted children it produces, so unlike the stressed parents and kids in their home countries. The two women explain that the core idea for Dutch parents is to treat children as “individuals rather than extensions of themselves.” Free of the demanding helicopter-parenting so rampant in the U.S. and U.K., children are given much more freedom to play and explore. Subjects covered include birth (done at home with a midwife), parental happiness (communities pitch in to shift some of the burden off parents), and raising teenagers (parents and teens set boundaries together.) Along with citations of supporting research studies and interviews with Dutch parents, witty sidebars are woven throughout, discussing Dutch birthday-party ideas, how to cycle while carrying an umbrella, and house rules for teenagers. American parents exhausted by the pressures and expectations of parenting will appreciate this refreshing look at how another culture handles the same issues. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Pretty Tough Plants: 135 Resilient, Water-Smart Choices for a Beautiful Garden

Plant Select. Timber, $24.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-60469-735-3

Focusing on plants that thrive in generally inhospitable locales, this book elaborates on a fascinating trend in horticulture involving large swaths of landscape cultivated with intentionality and even, to some extent, design. The book profiles 135 plants used in one such effort in high plains and intermountain regions of the Rocky Mountains; the project is orchestrated by Plant Select, a nonprofit plant distributor. The plants included in the volume meet the criteria of thriving in a broad range of conditions, flourishing with less water, being resilient in challenging climates, being resistant to disease and insects, possessing long-lasting beauty, and being non-invasive. Highlighting all varieties of plant life, including perennial and annuals, groundcovers, petites, vines, shrubs, ornamental grass, and conifers, each category is aided by stunning color photos and includes practical information: lighting demands, growth habits, propagation tips, and so on. The book highlights plants specific to high-mountain regions, but the parameters for cultivation and the palette of plants can apply in any number of growing climates. This is a beautiful and helpful book that advances a lively trend in intentional and sustainable landscaping. Color photos. (May)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Sew Jewish: The 18 Projects You Need for Jewish Holidays, Weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs Celebrations and Home

M. Bywater. Sew Jewish, $29.95 trade paper (150p) ISBN 978-0-9968582-2-9

Bywater, who designs wedding chuppahs for the wedding rental company Huppahs.com, assembles 18 projects for crafters interested in creating items for Jewish events. Each project is introduced with a quote from the Torah or rabbinical texts. Bywater introduces readers to each project with a quote or idiom and a short explanation of the religious significance of the item. There are projects for all skill levels, ranging from a simple decorative wrap that can transform an everyday jar into a special tzedakah box (used to save coins for charitable donations) to a DIY wedding chuppah with directions for both the canopy and stand. The color photos and simple instructions and patterns will help anyone feel confident in taking on a project. Suggestions on choosing and cutting appropriate fabrics make this a perfect book for beginners. Bywater’s cheerful writing style and helpful explanations of the religious significance of items will appeal to younger readers or those new to Judaism and wishing to learn more. Color photos. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Brain-Powered Weight Loss: The 11-Step Behavior-Based Plan that Ends Overeating and Leads to Dropping Unwanted Pounds for Good

Eliza Kingsford, with Debora Yost. Rodale, $26.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-62336-809-8

Kingsford, a psychotherapist, shares weight-loss wisdom informed by her expertise. Instead of laying out a diet or exercise regimen, Kingsford tackles the behavior behind weight gain; she asks readers to examine their own behavior and relationship toward food so that they can change poor, ingrained habits and effectively lose weight. Kingsford uses two talk-based therapies, cognitive and dialectical. Each chapter is dedicated to an individual step in her weight-loss plan: first, readers are urged to cultivate a “healthy obsession,” or obsession about health, and to write honestly to and for themselves. Subsequent steps explain the body’s resistant biology and how fat cells and genetics work before asking readers to identify flaws in their food thinking, live in their “wise mind” through mindfulness, and learn and use coping skills. The final chapters contain ways to find motivation to be more active, and strategies for overcoming temptations and overeating habits and adopting “healthy obsession” as a long-term lifestyle. This book is easily recommended to anyone who has ever tried, and failed, to lose weight through methods that emphasized the body at the expense of the mind. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Big Fit Girl: Embrace the Body You Have

Louise Green. Greystone (PGW, U.S. dist.; UTP, Canadian dist.), $16.95 trade paper (248p) ISBN 978-1-77164-212-5

Green, an athlete and personal trainer who founded a plus-size fitness boot camp, has written an inspiring and useful book for women who see their size as an impediment to getting fit and healthy. Part memoir, part self-help guide, Green relays her own story of unhealthy years spent hating her body and making promises to change that she couldn’t keep until she figured out how to accept and love her shape. She realized she could be both big and athletic. Green encourages women to embrace their bodies whatever their shape and to get started working out and achieving their fitness goals just as she did. She argues that the fitness industry fails women of size by neither creating apparel to fit their figures nor providing a safe, nurturing environment where they can begin to achieve their athletic goals. She offers advice on realistic goal setting, positive thinking, and surrounding oneself with a supportive team. Start now, she advises, and don’t wait for “plus-size ambassadors” at the gym. This is an important rallying cry for big women to step forward, get noticed, and prove that they don’t have to be thin to succeed—athletically or in any other way. Agent: Jesse Finkelstein, Transatlantic Agency. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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LoFrisco Family Cookbook: How Josie Brought Sicily to Brooklyn

Anthony LoFrisco. Trylon, $39.95 (280p) ISBN 978-0-9975458-0-7

First-time cookbook author LoFrisco’s love letter to Italian cuisine is equal parts memoir and cookbook, a welcome trip through time. LoFrisco’s nostalgic stories from his youth in 1950s Brooklyn, such as his brief foray into a life of crime—lifting fistfuls of candy bars to share with his friends, only to have his father, a police officer, answer the call from the shop owner—are charming and delightful, and give the book a generous helping of personality and place. His recipes are perfectly fine, but also perfectly ordinary; most of them are for Italian standards (panzanella Sunday sauce, veal parmigiana, lasagne) with some culinary outliers (a Niçoise salad, potato pancakes, beef stew, coffee cake). Readers of a certain age and those with an affinity for family cookbooks are sure to find a lot to like here. LoFrisco’s a warm storyteller. His deep affection for his family and the foods of his childhood is truly a delight to behold, and it shines through in what is clearly a labor of love. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Posh on Rice: Over 70 Recipes for All Things Rice

Emily Kydd. Quadrille, $19.99 (176p) ISBN 978-1-84949-9026

In this solid single-subject cookbook, Kydd delivers 70 recipes that use low-cost, versatile rice in exciting dishes. She begins with facts about rice, explaining that there are 40,000 varieties of the grain and that rice is a staple ingredient used by half the world’s population. The book is organized by course, from salads to desserts. Kydd includes recipes from around the world, such as curried rice, onigiri, rice pakoras, and roasted peaches with arroz con leche. Rice can be the vehicle to drive home delicious flavors, as Kydd helpfully demonstrates. Photos. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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A New Way to Bake: Classic Recipes Updated with Better-for-You Ingredients from the Modern Pantry

From the kitchens of Martha Stewart. Clarkson Potter, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-0-307-95471-8

The Kitchens of Martha Stewart have updated 130 classic recipes with healthy swaps—such as nut flour, farro flour, or whole-grain flour in place of white, as well as the use of natural nonsucrose sweeteners and nut milks—to increase the nutritional value of baked goods, including cookies, cakes, pies, and breads. Headnotes suggest additional variations such as using cinnamon in place of rosemary in the wheat-based parsnip-rosemary muffins; rice syrup in place of honey to veganize fruit and nut bars; and sweet potatoes to replace the cauliflower in stuffed whole-wheat flatbreads. Avid readers of Martha Stewart Living will recognize recipes from its glossy pages, such as the “ideal casual company cake,” orange-barley pound cake. An herb quiche with rye crust lends itself to easy entertaining, as do the homemade whole-grain crackers and blueberry ricotta tart. Kids might be enticed off the processed cookie wagon with cashew butter and jam thumbprint cookies. Those with nut allergies in the family will want to carefully review the recipes, as a number of them include nuts, nut milks, and nut butters. This is a healthier, yet no less tasty collection to rely on. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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My Master Recipes: 165 Recipes to Inspire Confidence in the Kitchen with Dozens of Variations

Patricia Wells. Morrow, $35 (496p) ISBN 978-0-0624-2482-2

In this superb tutorial, Wells (The Provence Cookbook) shares master recipes from her classes to inspire confidence in home cooks. She includes simple techniques such as blanching, steaming, simmering, and poaching that serve as the foundation of her recipes. She advocates for cooking seasonally, substituting honey for sugar whenever possible, replacing butter with olive oil when appropriate, and using organic ingredients (for which she makes a strong case). She also includes a helpful list of essential equipment. Each technique is followed by several recipes utilizing that approach with an occasional side bar on related topics such as parchment paper lids, what to do with leftovers, and trussing poultry. Recipes sometimes include wine pairings, cooking tips, or suggestions for variations. Those who already possess confidence in the kitchen can dive right into the wealth of appealing recipes, likely learning a thing or two along the way. Wells’s chapter on infusing is spectacular, including not only oils and butters but salts, cheeses, and sorbets. Asian chicken and cilantro meatballs, falafel, and mushroom brioche rolls are just a few of the immensely satisfying recipes she includes in this welcome addition to her cookbook repertoire. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/13/2017 | Details & Permalink

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