When Penguin Press published Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother in 2011 and Pamela Druckerman’s Bringing Up Bébé the next year, the publisher tapped into an American parenting anxiety—or at least, curiosity—about the best way to raise a child. Were kids raised the Chinese or French way really more accomplished and self-reliant?
Chua’s strict methods sparked debate among parents and educators, but her book went on to sell 178,000 print copies, per Nielsen BookScan—Druckerman’s sold 181,000—and opened the floodgates for a potentially evergreen genre. Five years later, several forthcoming titles could be filed under “They Parent Better over There.”
These books “speak to the stresses American parents feel about their kids always having to excel, rather than being the happiest and most well-adjusted,” Batya Rosenblum, associate editor at the Experiment, says. In April, the publisher is releasing The Happiest Kids in the World by Rina Mae Acosta and Michele Hutchison, expats from the U.S. and U.K., respectively, who now live in the Netherlands. It’s based on a 2013 post from the authors’ Finding Dutchland blog that to date has more than two million page views, according to the publisher.
Italian cartoonist Matteo Bussola’s Sleepless Nights and Kisses for Breakfast (TarcherPerigree, May) started off as an online venture, too—with heartfelt and humorous posts the author shares with his 59,000 Facebook followers about the joys and surprises of raising three daughters. The original Italian-language edition struck a chord with readers in a society not known for its hands-on dads, hitting the number one spot on Italian Amazon the day it pubbed, according to Marian Lizzi, editorial director at TarcherPerigree.
Sara Zaske makes the case for a return to what she calls “rational” parenting in Achtung Baby (Regan Arts, Apr.). The concept of a more hands-off approach to parenting is certainly not new—it formed the backbone of Bébé and has gone in and out of fashion throughout this decade—but it’s been garnering renewed press. In October 2016, a New York Times Magazine article about an “anti-helicopter” father in Silicon Valley stoked strong sentiments on both sides of that parenting divide. Zaske, an American who relocated to Berlin with her husband and toddler, frames rational parenting as a philosophy that’s less method, more common sense, as she watches the self-reliant German children around her walk themselves to school and use sharp objects without supervision.
Say Bonjour to the Lady by Florence Mars and Pauline Lévêque (Clarkson Potter, Mar.) contrasts two parenting cultures, searching for the beneficial in both the more traditional French style and what the authors call the “looser” U.S. style. Written by French women who are bringing up their children in New York City, the book calls out the benefits and relevance of both ways of raising kids. It’s also part of a mounting body of evidence that American moms and dads aren’t the only ones curious about other cultures’ parenting styles.
The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, for example, has been translated into 30 languages. More recently, rights to The Danish Way of Parenting, by Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Sandahl (TarcherPerigee, 2016), have been picked up in 17 international markets, including Germany, Italy, France—and even ground zero for the Tiger Mom’s methods, China.