Today’s parents have science savvy—they demand evidence-based information, but want it delivered with cleverness and wit (who has time to read a dry scientific treatise when baby’s diapers are wet?). To wit, the spring/summer lists include a number of meticulously researched but reader-friendly and entertaining titles parents can pick up and put down at their leisure (or rather, when junior’s schedule allows a break).
“The success of books such as NurtureShock [by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman; Twelve] and All Joy and No Fun [by Jennifer Senior; Ecco] prove that parents are hungry for thoughtful books about child development. That’s why we think there’s a readership for Dalton Conley’s Parentology and Linda Geddes’s Bumpology,” notes Jonathan Karp, president and publisher, Simon & Schuster. “We don’t plan on ending all of our parenting books with ‘-ology,’ but in both of these cases, the authors independently found their title inspiration and grounding in scientific research.”
The publishing company’s lead parenting titles are indeed parent-friendly, but solidly science-based. Says Karp, “Linda Geddes brings the breezy voice of a newly pregnant science journalist to Bumpology [Mar.], in which she sorts out conflicting data and theories. In Parentology [Mar.], sociologist Dalton Conley describes the scientific experiments he performed on his own two children, and the results are likely to surprise and entertain a lot of parents.”
At Da Capo, senior editor Dan Ambrosio is enthusiastic about two forthcoming parenting titles, both infused with science but in different ways. In Alfie Kohn’s new book, The Myth of the Spoiled Child (Mar.), the oft-controversial author talks “bluntly and intelligently, based on real research and evidence,” refuting the myth that parents have become pushovers and revealing that “parents should worry less about being indulgent and more about being too controlling, which can actually do much more harm,” Ambrosio says.
Psychologist David Elkind’s new release is Parenting on the Go (Da Capo, July). By the venerable author of The Hurried Child, the book is in keeping with the trend of being direct and to the point, notes Ambrosio, with practical tips for “birth to 6, A to Z” from a “credentialed source.”
At Pear Press, publisher Mark Pearson will introduce Zero to Five: 70 Essential Parenting Tips Based on Science (June) by Tracy Cutchlow with photos by Betsy Udesen, which “takes dozens of parenting tips based on scientific research and distills them into something readers can easily digest, combining the warmth of a best friend with a straightforward style.”
Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue by Christia Spears Brown (Ten Speed Press, Apr.) probes the research on gender and child development, aiming to help parents overcome gender stereotypes and raise their kids according to each child’s individual strengths. Says Ten Speed Press assistant editor Kaitlin Ketchum, “The author uses science-based hard research, but she’s also a parent so she includes anecdotes as well as examples from her own life. She offers really doable parenting tips and ways readers can integrate the research into their own lives.”
On the topic of gender, educational psychologist Lori Day examines mother-daughter bonds and the challenges girls face growing up today. Her Next Chapter: How Mother-Daughter Book Clubs Can Help Girls Navigate Malicious Media, Risky Relationships, Girl Gossip and So Much More (Chicago Review Press, May) also combines research with personal experience. Strong Mothers, Strong Sons by pediatrician Meg Meeker (Ballantine, Apr.), on the other hand, probes the particular problems of boys, focusing on how moms can provide the support boys need to thrive.
On the age-old and often confounding subject of teens, a revised and updated edition of Why Do They Act That Way? A Survival Guide to the Adolescent Brain for You and Your Teen by David Walsh (Atria, June) now includes guidance for dealing with the 24/7 online world. Viva Editions will issue a revised edition of The Available Parent: Expert Advice for Raising Successful, Resilient, and Connected Teens and Tweens by clinical psychologist John Duffy, with an audiobook being published simultaneously (June). Get Your Teenager Talking by Jonathan McKee presents 180 discussion starters for parents and their reluctant teens (Bethany House, May). How to Raise a Drug-Free Kid by Joseph A. Califano Jr., the former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, is due out from Touchstone in September.
Always of interest to parents are the subjects of food and the conundrums of children’s nutrition. Getting to YUM: The 7 Secrets of Raising Eager Eaters by Karen Le Billon (HarperCollins, May) incorporates new research on the science of taste. Says the author, “Parents want books that are research-based but are also fun, not didactic. The research shows that, basically, kids will eat almost anything if given the right exposure, encouragement, and incentive.” Picky eaters aren’t born—they’re made by parents—and Le Billon presents the science to prove it. One caveat: science is likely to change from generation to generation, so parents should be alert and also trust their own instincts, Le Billon points out.
From University Press of Kansas comes Fat Blame: How the War on Obesity Victimizes Women and Children by April Herndon (May). The author examines how the war on obesity is in many ways a battle against marginalized women and children.
Also on the subject of food, Allergy-Free Cooking for Kids by Pamela Clark (Sterling Epicure, Mar.) includes gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and nut-free recipes for parents facing the tricky task of cooking for kids with allergies.
Since what goes in must also go out, new parents will no doubt be eager to read What’s Your Baby’s Poo Telling You? by gastroenterologist and writer team Anish Sheth and Josh Richman (Avery, May). The duo formerly penned the humorous yet informative What Your Poo Is Telling You.
Another evergreen topic for parents is sleep. Nearly every breastfeeding mother owns a dog-eared copy of the La Leche League classic The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. This summer comes the La Leche title Sweet Sleep (Ballantine, July), which, according to Marnie Cochran, executive editor, Ballantine Bantam Dell, will be the nursing mom’s sleep bible. The book’s four authors present the “Safe Sleep Seven,” a list of rules for safe co-sleeping for babies and breastfeeding moms, “developed from a very rigorous review of the research.” Says Cochran, “Most parents want science-based information. The first thing they ask is, ‘What’s the neuroscience on that? What does the science say?’ That’s legitimate and these authors are giving it to us.” Sleep is a vital touchstone, and a root cause and solution related to so many other issues in childrearing, Cochran points out.
No wonder so many parents lose sleep worrying about it! For those looking for a plan, Perigee offers The Newborn Sleep Book by pediatricians Jonathan Jassey and Lewis Jassey (Aug.). Their method is touted as “the first and only guide to lay out a detailed sleep program for newborns—as early as the first few weeks of life.”
Other upcoming releases include Permission to Parent by Robin Berman (HarperWave, Apr.), in which the psychiatrist and mother of three helps parents rule with a combination of limits and love, and Keep Calm and Parent On (Atria, July) by Emma Jenner, who starred in TLC’s Take Home Nanny.
School issues also fall in line with Bright Kids Who Can’t Keep Up by psychologists Ellen Braaten and Brian Willoughby, tackling the issue of slow processing speed in a fast-paced world (Guilford Press, Aug.). Middle School Makeover by Michelle Icard (Bibliomotion, May) steps up to help parents and kids navigate the middle-school years.
Who are the real experts when it comes to parenting? Says Lisa Sharkey, senior vice-president and director of creative development at HarperCollins, “Parenting has changed so much with social media that now moms really rely on one another for expert advice, shoulders to cry on, and of course a place to let it all hang out. It is no longer a world where the male doctor in the white coat is the ultimate authority on how to raise your kids. And funny is what breaks out because everyone, especially moms, needs a good laugh. These bloggers-turned-book-authors are filling that need.”
Sharkey is talking, of course, about I Heart My Little A-Holes (subtitled “a bunch of holy-crap moments no one ever told you about parenting”) by popular mommy blogger Karen Alpert, originally a self-pub phenomenon signed on by HarperCollins. The book will no doubt make the perfect Mother’s Day gift for moms in need of a hearty laugh (William Morrow, Apr.).
Observes Lorena Jones, publishing director at Chronicle, “Parents turn to their tablets and laptops for relaxation and to treat themselves at the end of their long days and so bloggers who write about parenting are a natural draw. The ones who are the most original, clever, and relatable quickly gather word-of-mouth momentum and build a community of followers who crave their installments.” From Chronicle comes “blogging sensation and family man” Jason Good and his This Is Ridiculous, This Is Amazing (June), which delivers a laugh-out-loud look at family life (his “viral” blog posts included “3 Minutes Inside the Head of My 2-Year-Old” and “46 Reasons My Three-Year-Old Might Be Freaking Out”).
Comic relief has long been a mainstay of the parenting genre. How Not to Calm a Child on a Plane—and Other Lessons in Parenting from a Highly Questionable Source by comedy writer Johanna Stein (Da Capo, Apr.) “throws all decorum out the window and tells it like it is,” says Lissa Warren, vice-president, senior director of publicity. “Lately,” she adds, “the genre has been trending toward books that reject the polite filters and gentle language so often associated with books on parenting and childcare.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, a healthy crop of daddy books will bloom just in time for Father’s Day, including The Expectant Dad’s Handbook by male antenatal educator Dean Beaumont (Vermilion, June); Confessions of the World’s Best Father by photographer Dave Engledow (Gotham, May); When I First Held You, which includes essays by 22 writers on the joys and hurdles of dadhood (Berkley Trade, May); From Dude to Dad by Chris Pegula, creator of Diaper Dude, a line of “hip gear for cool dads” (Perigee, May); and Commando Dad, which reads like a basic-training manual by “ex-commando and father of three” Neil Sinclair (Chronicle, June).
This sampling of upcoming titles and trends points to the fact that the parenting literature continues to widen its scope, inspiring contemporary parents not only to learn more, but to relax and laugh while expanding their knowledge and expertise. And it just may be that parent/readers are buying into the same lesson they often teach their kids: “Science can and should be fun!”
The Small, but Essential Book Section
“Parenting and childcare is one of those sections that we really have to have,” says Valerie Lewis, co-owner of Hicklebee’s in San Jose, Calif. “When there’s a need, people have to have it now.” But at the same time it tends to be a small section, not just at her store, but at other children’s specialty stores and general stores with strong children’s selections.
The more robust subjects at Hicklebee’s concern explaining new babies, death and dying, and teens and sex. Many of Lewis’s handselling favorites on those subjects tend to be the tried and true: Susan Varley’s Badger’s Parting Gifts (HarperCollins) or Bryon Mellonie’s Lifetimes (Bantam), illustrated by Robert Ingpen. But one new book she’s especially looking forward to sharing with customers is Sophie Blackall’s The Baby Tree (Nancy Paulsen, May). “It’s really cute,” says Lewis of this picture book response to the perennial question, Where do babies come from?
At 25-year-old Fundamentals Parent Teacher Bookstore in Delaware, Ohio, the parenting section is also “pretty tiny,” according to owner Tami Furlong. “What I find,” she says, “is that when parents have an issue, they come in and look for books to read with their kids. Every once in a while people want the classics like Dr. Spock. With all the blogs and online information, young parents just go online,” she says.
One of the biggest books continues to be What to Expect When You’re Expecting (Workman), which was first published 30 years ago and is now in its fourth edition. “I always have to have that on the shelf. We sell a lot when young ladies come in with their moms,” says Alicia Deupree, children’s buyer at Katy Budget Books in Houston, which carries both new and used books. “Something we keep in parenting that’s starting to move is home schooling books. We’re getting a lot more people looking for them used. They’re getting expensive like textbooks.”
Parenting is not a fast-turner at Eights Cousins Books in Falmouth, Mass., either. “We think it’s important and sometimes we sneak things into it like The New Yorker Magazine Book of Mom Cartoons [Andrews McMeel],” says owner Carol Chittenden. She does well with titles like How Eskimos Keep Their Parents Warm (Algonquin) and Bad Mother (Anchor) and perennial favorites such as Raising Cain (Ballantine) and Getting to Calm (Parent Map).
Perhaps Chittenden sums up this area best: “Parenting and childcare is important, but it’s small. Just like kids.”—Judith Rosen