Like doctors and radio stations, parenting books have become more specialized, as the all-knowing authorities give way to experts who tackle one child-rearing challenge at a time. Today's parents, savvier and more time-pressured than those of previous generations, want information that pinpoints their concerns, say publishers—who are more than happy to address moms' and dads' concerns. "The generalist, whether it was Penelope Leach or any of the past icons of parenting, we're not seeing that kind of person coming to the fore," says Perigee publisher John Duff. "That doesn't seem to exist any more; people are looking for help in more specialized areas."

The icons still sell, but largely on the momentum of reputations established years ago. Take T. Berry Brazelton, whose Touchpoints: Your Child's Emotional and Behavioral Development came out a decade ago and is still seen as one of the preeminent guides to a child's first six years. "Establishing someone new these days is very difficult; if we were to publish Touchpoints now it would be a daunting task," says Marnie Cochran, executive editor of Da Capo Lifelong Books. Da Capo's current strategy for the brand is a series of subject-specific books, The Brazelton Way, which was launched early last year. New last month were titles on feeding and toilet training.

Another trend is the increasing focus on titles written by parents—some who boast professional child-rearing credentials, many who do not—whose books are often more memoir than how-to manual. Witness Cursed by a Happy Childhood by publishing industry veteran Carl Lennertz (Crown, May), which began with the author's wish to tell his own daughter about his childhood and grew into a book with more universal insights.

While the approach has changed, the topics parents care most about haven't. Though some books address emerging priorities, such as advocating for a child with a learning disability, most focus on the perennial staples of parenting—including communication, early childhood development and keeping teenagers out of trouble. The motivation driving parents into the bookstore also remains the same, says Vicki Lansky, who has been writing books in the category for 30 years and whose latest, Getting Your Child to Sleep... and Back to Sleep is coming in May from Book Peddlers. "I think we want to do better than our parents," she says. "It's really about the insecurities in our society. We don't trust ourselves, so we try to do it by the book."

Beginning at the Beginning

The insecurities arrive well before the child does. Pregnancy is as old as the species, but publishers are still looking for ways to make the subject new. In January, Knopf released a revised edition of its classic 1980 title The Complete Book ofPregnancy and Childbirth by Sheila Kitzinger, which has sold more than two million copies. The book includes updated information on medical issues such as cesarean delivery, ultrasound and pain relief. Knopf published the book simultaneously in hardcover and, for the first time, in paperback.

A newer entrant into the field, Dr. Susan Warhus, mined her experience

as an obstetrician/gynecologist to write Countdown to Baby—The 100 Most Asked Questions About Pregnancy and Childbirth (Addicus Books, Jan.). "What makes it unique is how the author went about getting questions for the book," says publisher Rod Colvin. "She has delivered more than 3,000 babies, and over a 15-year career has kept a collection of the most common questions that women asked in her office." Warhus focuses on the physical and emotional, but there is another kind of preparation—that which involves such practical matters as buying maternity clothes and baby-proofing the house. In May, Running Press will publish The Baby Countdown Book & Clock by Tracey Guth Spangler, which includes a detachable clock and a list of pre-baby chores.

Other publishers are targeting subgroups of pregnant women. For athletic mothers-to-be, Ten Speed Press offers The Active Woman's Guide to Pregnancy: Practical Advice for Getting Outdoors When Expecting by Dr. Aneema Van Groenou (Apr.), which touts the benefits of a physically active pregnancy and teaches the proper techniques for exercising at all stages. HarperResource has found a niche in multiple birth pregnancies: in June it will release a revised edition of When You're Expecting Twins, Triplets or Quads by Dr. Barbara Luke and Tamara Eberlein. The book has only grown more timely in the five years since the original version came out, says senior editor Toni Sciarra: "Because more and more people have been undergoing fertility treatments, more and more people have been having multiple births."

Though teen pregnancy is anything but new, Perigee provides a fresh take with You Look Too Young to Be a Mom, edited by Deborah Davis. This April title, which features teen moms telling their stories, challenges the notion that a teenage pregnancy ends a girl's chances of having a happy life. Duff acknowledges that pregnant teenagers aren't usually considered the ideal market for parenting books, but says that Perigee is promoting the book through organizations that work with these girls.

Other publishers are trying to distinguish themselves in the pregnancy category by coming at the event from a different angle. Your Perfectly Pampered Pregnancy: Beauty, Health, and Lifestyle Advice for the Modern Mother-to-Be (Broadway Books, Feb.), recognizes that as a woman is thinking about fetal development, she's also worrying about stretch marks and getting through a long day at work. Says senior editor Patricia Medved, "Pregnancy does wreak havoc on you as a person, so it's nice to be able to focus on feeling good." And speaking of havoc, Jenny McCarthy—who got famous flaunting her figure in Playboy and on MTV—details what carrying a child did to her photo-ready body in Belly Laughs (Da Capo, May). "It's one long bitch-and-moan about how uncomfortable it is to be pregnant. It's absolutely raw and raunchy and right on," says Cochran.

Learning the Baby Rules

Parents make the most fertile market for books just before and after their babies are born, publishers say. Terrified and blissed-out in equal measure, they're obsessed with the minutiae of caring for a tiny, dependent person. And publishers continue to find ways to cater to that obsession. There are updates on old subjects, such as the step-by-step primer, Bestfeeding: How to Breast Feed Your Baby (Ten Speed, May), and books that introduce new ideas, such as Itsy Bitsy Yoga by Helen Garabedian (Fireside, May), which maintains that just because an infant can't sit up yet is no reason he or she shouldn't get started on this popular form of exercise. In keeping with the trend of handling one subject at a time, Barron's adds four new titles to its Last Straw Strategies series that began in 2003. These April books, all by Michelle Kennedy, deal with toilet training, jealousy, manners and getting young children to let go of security blankets and pacifiers.

Since health and safety are at the top of almost every new parent's concerns, it's not surprising that a number of new titles deal exclusively with how to keep a baby from getting sick or injured. The Baby Rules: The Insider's Guide to Raising Your Parents by Jamie Schaefer-Wilson and Jo Anne Germinario (Health Communications, Apr.) plays to the fear factor with warnings about hidden safety hazards and guidance for avoiding accidents. The publisher balances the heavy subject with a cutesy approach—the information is written as if from the perspective of infants. On the health side, Your Newborn: Head to Toe (Little, Brown, Feb.) answers questions about when parents should call a doctor, and what to ask when they do. Written by Dr. Cara Familian Natterson, the book started out as a pamphlet the author was writing for parents she saw in her pediatric practice. In Helping Your Child Be Well: A Pediatrician's 101 True Stories and Vignettes About Childhood Diseases, Prevention, Health and Happiness (ISP Publications, Apr.), Dr. Raghavendra Rao lets parents of sick children know they're not alone and explains the options for dealing with a variety of ailments, from simple infections to cancer. Firefly Books uses tactics that are similar to those in Baby Rules, with photos and questions posed as if by an infant, in Everything Your Baby Would Ask: If Only He or She Could Talk. Authors Kyra Karmiloff and Annette Karmiloff-Smith maintain that babies reveal the source of their physical discomfort and their emotions through gestures and actions.

Despite increased specialization, in this corner of the parenting book market there still is room for more comprehensive titles, especially those that have been around for a while. In June Bantam is releasing the third edition of a 1991 title, Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5, published in cooperation with the American Academy of Pediatrics. As much as parents need practical information, they may also crave a sense that someone empathizes with the profound emotional experience of caring for a child, especially one born under special circumstances. Parenting Your Premature Baby and Child: The Emotional Journey, A Book of Healing and Hope (Fulcrum, May) by Deborah L. Davis and Mara Tesler Stein, mixes pragmatic with inspirational stories from parents of premature children. The passion of parenting—in particular motherhood—is celebrated in Maternal Desire (Little, Brown, Mar.), in which Daphne de Marneffe maintains that no matter how women's roles change, motherhood provides a singular joy.

Feeding the Need to Achieve

In our increasingly achievement-oriented society, children barely out of diapers are getting groomed for academic stardom. The trend has been building for years, publishers say, and isn't slowing down. This year's crop of super-student books includes a new title from Ron Clark, author of last year's bestseller, The Essential 55. In Excellent 11: Qualities Shared by Children Who Love to Learn (Hyperion, June), Clark prescribes 11 gotta-have qualities such as "adventure" and "enthusiasm." Hyperion is also keeping the Essential 55 franchise alive via a companion workbook due in June. The original title sold more than 850,000 copies in under six months.

Parents who worry their children are too smart for their school can check out Genius Denied: How to Stop Wasting Our Brightest Young Minds (Simon & Schuster, Apr.) by husband-and-wife team Jan and Bob Davidson. The authors contend that hundreds of thousands of highly gifted students—and millions more who are above average—are intellectually wasting away in unchallenging schools. They teach parents how to work the system so it better serves their kids.

All students—geniuses or not—need well-informed parents to get the best education, says Tiffani Chin, whose School Sense: How to Help Your Child Succeed in Elementary School is coming in June from Santa Monica Press. The 408-page book is an A—Z guide covering everything from how to help a child remember to do homework to what types of gifts to give teachers. "It's certainly not geared to kids who are in all honors classes," says publisher Jeffrey Goldman. "It's more for the middle-of-the-road student. But even if you have a kid who's extremely bright and in all honors classes, you're still going to have to get him away from the TV when he's doing his homework. So many of these issues are universal."

But youngsters don't have to wait until elementary school to get started on academic achievement. Every Child Ready to Read, coming in August from Ballantine, is filled with games and word play aimed at children four and under. Parents of kids five and up can check out Teaching Kids to Read for Dummies by Tracey Wood (Wiley, June). Other books speak not about how to read, but what to read. It would be hard to find a more authoritative voice on the subject than Anita Silvey, who has spent 35 years publishing and evaluating children's books (including running Houghton Mifflin's children's books program from 1995 to 2001). Silvey's The 100Best Books for Children is coming from Houghton in April. For a more personal approach, Welcome to Lizard Motel by Barbara Feinberg (Beacon Press, Aug.) is one mother's argument against feeding middle school students a diet of books depicting abuse, abandonment and other distressing topics. "What she feels is that they're not developmentally what kids need to read; they're a book version of reality TV," says executive editor Joanne Wyckoff. "And she's saying we're forcing kids to become adults sooner than they need to."

To nurture a different type of learning, there's Your Musical Child: Inspiring Kids to Play for Keeps (String Letter Publishing, Apr.). Author Jessica Baron Turner, a guitar teacher with degrees in clinical psychology and childhood development, says parents can begin developing their children's musical potential in the womb.

And what's a trend without a backlash? In this case, the contrary point of view comes from Rodale, which in September is publishing a paperback version of Einstein Never Used Flash Cards by Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and Robert Michnick Golinkoff. The book, which sold some 20,000 hardcover copies, makes the case for letting children do what comes naturally. "Parents of young children feel this fear if they're not maxing their child out," says senior editor Lou Cinquino. "They get themselves into a kind of fit about it, when the scientists say the best teacher really is play."

Fighting for Disabled Children

Most parents work hard to raise successful children. But for disabled children, the road to achievement slants steeply uphill. That's always been the case; what's changed in recent years is that parents are no longer willing to quell their expectations or delegate decisions. "I think that parents really want to raise their level of awareness and not necessarily turn their child's care or diagnosis over to a professional," says Sheila Curry Oakes, editor of The Maverick Mind: A Mother's Story of Solving the Mystery of Her Unreachable, Unteachable, Silent Son (Putnam, Jan.), one of a host of new books for parents of disabled children. The author, Cheri L. Florance, is a speech pathologist and the mother of an autistic son. The book tells how she defied the experts, reaching into the mysteries of her son's brain and helping him scale seemingly insurmountable limitations.

For more overcoming-the-odds tales, readers can look to Only a Mother CouldLove Him: My Life with and Triumph over ADD by Ben Polis (Ballantine, Aug.), a combination memoir and advice book and Reflections from a Different Journey: What Adults with Disabilities Wish All Parents Knew by Stanley D. Klein and John D. Kemp (McGraw-Hill, Apr.), a collection of 40 inspiring stories from successful adults who grew up with disabilities. In May, timed for Mother's Day, Newmarket Press is publishing a paperback version of Anne Ford's memoir of helping her learning-disabled daughter grow into independence, Laughing Allegra. The story begins in 1976, a time when there were few resources to help children like Allegra. The hardcover, published last May, has sold 15,000 copies. The popularity of books on disabilities has been fueled by the increasing amount of information—and disinformation—coming at parents, says Gary Krebs, publishing director of Adams Media. "Parents talk with other parents when they drop their kids off at preschool, they search the Internet, the parenting magazines address these issues every month," he says. "As a parent you really can get consumed by these thoughts," says Krebs. "And certainly books can help educate and help ease these concerns." The next installment in the publisher's Everything Parent's Guide series is a book on autism scheduled for next month.

Filling in Communication Gaps

"Communication books have been popular for a while. I think everyone's looking for a fresh take on it," says Judith McCarthy, executive editor of McGraw-Hill Trade, which looked to business for inspiration on its latest family communication book. Family 360: A Proven Way to Get Your Family to Talk, Solve Problems and Improve Relationships by Perry Christensen and Ben Porter uses the "360 concept," a trendy business communication strategy that involves seeking the opinions of everyone involved to find out what is and isn't working.

Even if children are too young to get involved in such discussions, parents can learn to communicate with them, according to parenting guru Dr. Harvey Karp, author of 2002's The Happiest Baby on the Block. "Harvey's all about communication and figuring out what speaks to the infant in your arms," says Bantam senior editor Beth Rashbaum, who edited Happiest Baby and Karp's follow-up title, The Happiest Toddler on the Block: The New Way to Stop the Daily Battle of Wills and Raise a Secure and Well-Behaved One- to Four-Year-Old (Bantam, Mar.). Karp teaches parents how to speak and act in a way that a toddler can understand, as his previous book taught how to interact with babies.

Parents sometimes communicate the wrong messages without realizing it, says Georgia Hughes, editorial director of New World Library, which next month is publishing Hearing IsBelieving by Dr. Elisa Medhus. The book contends that such well-intentioned phrases as "I'm so proud of you" and "You're such a good girl" can turn children into approval seekers.

Understanding what children are communicating about their fears—and responding in a reassuring way—are the goals of a September title from Henry Holt, Listening to Fear: Helping Kids Cope, from Nightmares to the Nightly News. Author Steve Marans tells parents how to spot the nonverbal ways children show fear and to ask probing questions.

As any parent who has been there knows, communication grows exponentially more difficult as their son or daughter's age creeps into the double-digits. To penetrate the wall of miscommunication, Dafina Books co-opts pop culture with next month's Rap Therapy: A Practical Guide for Communicating with Youth and Young Adults Through Rap Music by Don Elligan, a Chicago-based clinical psychologist who uses rap in his practice. Editor Karen Thomas admits many parents think of rap as more problem than solution. But she points out that some rap does have a positive message, and that even negative lyrics can spark communication as parents and children deconstruct them together.

To guide mom and dad through the maze of teenage understanding, Rodale enlisted a teenager, Rhett Godfrey, to write The Teen Code: How to Talk toThem About Sex, Drugs and Everything Else—Teenagers Reveal What Works Best. Godfrey, now 18, penned the book with help from his mother, Neale S. Godfrey, author of several books on money and parenting. The younger Godfrey interviewed hundreds of teens to find out how parents were talking to them about such touchy topics as divorce, cigarettes and privacy. The Godfreys aren't the only mother-teen duo with a book out. Promise You Won't Freak Out (Berkley, May) was written by journalist Doris A. Fuller and her daughter, Natalie Fuller. Natalie Fuller is said to reveal all about what she was thinking, feeling and doing as she traversed the treacherous years from 13 to 16. Mom gets equal time, responding to her daughter's revelations about such subjects as stealing, dating and partying.

Surviving the Terrible Teens

It's not just communication, say the experts: almost everything about raising a teenager can be more than a little scary. Citadel Press comes at the fear straight-on in Is My Teenager OK? by Dr. Henry Paul. Loaded with statistics, information on risk factors, warning signs of problems and actions to take if a teenager is in trouble, it covers the usual perils of adolescence—sex, alcohol, eating disorders and depression. Parents who are not content to wait for their teens to reveal signs of trouble and decide to do a little snooping, might first want to read I Can't Believe You Went Through My Stuff (Fireside, Aug.), in which Peter Sheras and Andrea Thompson make a case for stifling those overprotective instincts and letting teenagers have their privacy.

"When they get to a certain age, they start to keep secrets from you and you're so used to having this completely open relationship with this person," says Touchstone Fireside editor-in-chief Trish Todd. "You know they need privacy, but where do you draw the line? This book helps you figure out where to draw the line." Another Simon & Schuster imprint, the Free Press, dissects (figuratively, of course) the teenage brain to explain the scientific basis for baffling behavior. Aptly named Why Do They Act That Way?: A Survival Guide to the Adolescent Brain for You and Your Teen (Aug.) by David Walsh, the book is being touted by its publisher as "Raising Cain meets A Mind at a Time."

Targeting what may be the biggest danger facing teens, What's a Parent to Do? Straight Talk About Drugs and Alcohol by Dr. Henry David Abraham (New Horizon Press, Sept.), presents such sobering statistics as 50% of teens smoke marijuana, 80% drink alcohol and one in 10 has used a club drug like Ecstasy. Abraham, a psychiatrist with the unusual distinction of having been awarded both the Nobel Peace Prize and an Emmy, tells parents how to prevent substance abuse—and, if that doesn't work, how to help their child get free of a drug problem.

After poring over teen tribulations in the following titles, parents may be ready for a good laugh. Ariel Gore serves up several in a May Seal Press release, Whatever, Mom: Hip Mama's Guide to Raising a Teenager. Gore, editor and publisher of the alternative parenting zine Hip Mama, leavens her serious advice with irony and often self-deprecating wit.

Zen and the Art of Parenthood

Of course, the difficult stuff doesn't start at 13. A number of this year's parenting books speak to bad behavior at any age. In Don't Give Me That Attitude (Jossey-Bass, Apr.), Michele Borba lays out strategies for transforming bad-tempered, demanding brats into little darlings. And well-heeled parents can learn how to weed the greed from their spoiled offspring with Gary Buffone's Choking on the Silver Spoon (Simplon Press, Feb.). On a more fundamental level, many younger children run into trouble for lack of simple social skills. Free Spirit Publishing's new Learning to Get Along series by Cherie J. Meiners pinpoints behaviors children ages four to eight need to learn to thrive in a group. Out last month were Join in and Play and Be Polite and Kind.

Two other 2004 titles claim to hold the secrets to developing happy families and well-adjusted kids. Though the goals are similar, the books look to very different sources of inspiration. Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel (W Publishing Group, Feb.) draws on the Bible for a Christian interpretation of grace that trumps fear. "We want our kids to be safe, but Tim says that it is more important that we raise our children to be strong," says senior editor Laura Kendall. "That if we allow our children to live in a cocoon kind of world, when they go out on their own, they won't have the strength to face the challenges that we all have to face." In The Book of Nurturing (NAL, May), authors Linda and Richard Eyre borrow from the animal world, presenting nine "natural laws" that strengthen the family and raise children's self-esteem.

Even with the smartest strategies, family flare-ups happen. So it helps to have a Zen attitude. Time-Out for Parents: A Compassionate Approach to Parenting advocates using "time-outs" not as a punishment, but as a needed break. Author and Zen teacher Cheri Huber writes, "Instead of punishing our children by sending them into isolation, let's offer ourselves time-out to discover our own needs, our own true selves."

In the midst of all this advice, a new book from Conari Press offers the comforting thought that moms and dads are doing a better job than they think in The Best ThingsParents Do by Susan Isaacs Kohl (Mar.). The author tells PW, "Parents have many more challenges today, and I think they need to appreciate themselves and what they do because their children will benefit if they feel good about themselves."

Finally, if all that expertise fails, there's always the time-honored tactic of the random response. Mom's Book ofAnswers (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, May) works much like a Magic 8 Ball. Just ask a question and flip to any page to find advice like, "Do your chores first" or "You can't have dessert until you eat all your vegetables." And who could argue with that?

Dad News BearsWhat do "love handles," "man boobs" and "beer guts" have to do with being a parent? Everything, says Lawrence Schwartz, if you're a guy. In Fat Daddy/Fit Daddy: A Man's Guide to Balancing Fitness and Family (Taylor Trade Publishing, Jan.), Schwartz explains how the married-with-children lifestyle can turn abs from washboard to washtub and outlines a plan for fighting father-flab.
Schwartz's book is one of several new titles aimed at fathers. Packed with sports metaphors and a 10-point "game plan" that lays out the fundamentals of weight loss (exercise, drink water, eat less) the book is illustrative of publishers' current attempts to speak in a voice that will appeal to men.
"Dads don't want to be talked down to," says Camille Cline, an acquisitions editor at Taylor. "They just want the information that they need—straight talk without a lot of fuss and cartoons and a goofy approach." Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, of which Taylor is a part, is staking a lot on the daddy market this year. In addition to Fat Daddy, it is publishing Stepdads: Stories of Love, Hope and Repair by William Marsiglio (R&L Publishers, Mar.) and Daddy Smarts II: The First Two Years by Bradley Richardson (Taylor, Oct.) The latter is a follow-up to Richardson's 2000 title, Daddy Smarts: A Guide for Rookie Fathers.
Meanwhile, Ryland, Peters & Small will next month release a 64-page illustrated book by Charles Phillips, Men's Wisdom: Fatherhood; and in January 2005 Scribner is publishing The Good Father: On Men, Masculinity,and Life in the Family by Mark Connell. Men's Wisdom is inspirational, The Good Father instructive, but both promote the idea of dads taking an active role in child-rearing.
Columbia University Press celebrates a smaller niche with Gay Men ChoosingParenthood, by Gerald P. Mallon (Mar.) "It's not an advice book at all; I talk about the experience of parenting," says Mallon, an associate professor at Hunter College School of Social Welfare and the gay father of an adopted daughter. For the book, he interviewed gay adoptive fathers to find out what motivated them. "Their story was this kind of passion for wanting to be parents despite society saying, 'gay men can't be parents,' " says Mallon. "I kind of wanted to capture the journey toward parenting, and once they had a child placed with them, what that experience was like."
For Kids, It's a Weighting Game
For parents who remember youth as a time when their mothers wouldn't let them run outside to play until they'd cleaned their plate, the startling rise in childhood obesity has turned long-held notions about child-rearing upside down. Today's challenge is to pry sedentary children away from the TV or computer screen long enough for them to get some exercise and to keep them from fattening up on mammoth portions of junk food. To make it even more challenging, parents who try to impose diets or exercise regimens face the danger of setting their children up for lifelong body image or food "issues."
No wonder weight management has become the hottest topic in parenting books. Several publishers have recent or forthcoming titles on the subject, and judging from the proposals flooding in to editors, those books may be just a small taste of what's to come. "We're seeing an onslaught of proposals dealing with childhood obesity," says Perigee publisher John Duff. Coming next year from Perigee is Barbarians at the Plate by Marialisa Calta; the publisher has also signed a deal for an as-yet-untitled book by Yvonne Sanders-Butler, the Atlanta-area principal who made national headlines when she banned sugar and bad fats from her school's cafeteria.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the number of overweight and obese children has doubled in the past 20 years, with more than 15% now defined as obese. News outlets have been serving up these facts in liberal portions.
"Agents and authors are trying to capitalize on the media attention to this issue," says Marnie Cochran, executive editor of Da Capo Lifelong Books. "I've passed on a lot of proposals because I think, at the end of the day, it's fair to say that nobody has the magic pill." Da Capo's fall 2004 list includes a general nutrition title, Raising Healthy Eaters. But Cochran said she's still "looking for the really good book" on childhood obesity.
Rodale's take on the subject is Rescuing the Emotional Lives of OverweightChildren by Sylvia Rimm (Mar.). Senior editor Lou Cinquino says the book isn't about getting children to slim down:. "[It's] a broader approach to any child with a weight problem, and is saying, 'while you're designing a program to help them eat right and exercise, the first thing you have to do is protect their emotional lives.' "
Broadway Books is also addressing the emotional aspects of weight with Real Kids Come in All Sizes: Ten Essential Lessons to Build Your Child's Body Esteem by Kathy Kater (July). According to senior editor Patricia Medved. "The author's contention is that our obsession with weight and size is partly to blame for obesity."
A May release from Atria Books shows how grown-up ailments—heart disease, diabetes, hypertension—can begin in childhood: Growing Up Healthy by former Good Morning America co-host Joan Lunden and Dr. Myron Winick prescribes a nutrition plan that begins in the womb. Adams Media has a diet and exercise title in the works, the Everything Parents Guideto Your Overweight Child (Apr., 2005).