The Wall Street Journal's provocative January 8 headline alone—"Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior"—would have been enough to spark intense discussion. But coupled with a no-nonsense-tolerated excerpt from Amy Chua's parenting memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (Penguin Press, Jan.), that sharply contrasts so-called "Eastern" and "Western" styles of parenting, what resulted was nothing less than a firestorm. The fierce debate over Chua's arguments is still raging two months later (the book marks week 8 on PW's bestseller list), an eternity in an age when this morning's controversy often feels like it happened last year.
The Tiger Mother brouhaha is still very much on the minds of publishers in the parenting category, with nearly all mentioning the title in relation to new offerings. It comes as no surprise that Chua's book has struck such a nerve.
"The pendulum has been swinging between ‘helicopter' and ‘free range' parenting for some years now, so I see the Tiger Mother controversy as more of an extension of that debate," if an extreme one, says Lesley M. Iura, associate publisher of Wiley's Jossey-Bass imprint.
While the publisher's Smart Parenting for Smart Kids: Nurturing Your Child's True Potential by Eileen Kennedy-Moore and Mark Lowenthal (Mar.) does focus on parenting perfectionist, overachieving offspring, Iura says that it and other Jossey-Bass titles "promote a view of parenting that we think is more sustainable."
But DK publisher Peggy Vance offers her take on the Tiger Mom furor: "The best books are not those that get the splashiest news stories. They are the ones moms recommend to each other."
Although Linda and Richard Eyre's The Entitlement Trap: How to Rescue Your Child with a New Family System of Choosing, Earning, and Ownership (Avery, Sept. 2011) was acquired well before the publication of Tiger Mother, Avery editorial director Megan Newman says, "We do think the controversy swirling around that book points to the growing anxiety about how we're raising our children." The parents of nine children, the Eyres' approach focuses on giving children more ownership and independence within families, with the goal of instilling a sense of responsibility and accountability that will make for successful adulthood.
While all of this year's crop of books have been in the works long before this latest set-to, a surprising number deal with related issues about how to approach motherhood—albeit most with a far from extreme view.
From Tiger Moms to Hot Moms
Mothers remain the core audience of parenting tomes, and most titles reflect the desire to appeal to today's busy mom—surrounded with so much heated, and often conflicting, rhetoric—by using a more measured approach.
For instance, Ballantine hopes mothers will connect with the practical advice of Dr. Meg Meeker, longtime pediatrician, mother of four, and bestselling author of 2006's Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters. Out this month, her The Ten Habits of Happy Mothers: Reclaiming Our Passion, Purpose, and Sanity outlines core habits for moms, counsels on not parenting from fear, and advises women on how to stop competing with other moms and themselves.
"There will always be books that put forth a controversial style of parenting or advocate for an extreme approach," says Marnie Cochran, executive editor at Ballantine Bantam Dell. "But the vast middle ground is where most parents live and seek their advice."
Mothers seeking common sense guides have an abundance of choices this season. The Pregnant Body Book (DK, May) continues its popular Human Body Book line, featuring a visual illustration spanning the nine months of pregnancy along with a DVD with specially commissioned 3-D artwork, illustrations, scans, and photos.
Two straightforward titles coming from Da Capo Lifelong are One Year to an Organized Life with Baby (Feb.), Regina Leeds's follow-up to One Year to an Organized Life, and The Mommy Docs' Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy and Birth (May) by Drs. Yvonne Bohn, Allison Hill, and Alane Park. Chronicle promises parental stress relief in a pair of spring titles, with Pregnancy Planner: Essential Advice for Moms-to-Be by the editors of Parenting magazine (Mar.) and Kerry Colburn's Mama's Big Book of Little Lifesavers: 398 Ways to Save Your Time, Money, and Sanity (Apr.). Rowman & Littlefield subscribes to the Mother Knows Best theory, as evidenced by its July release, Professor Mommy: Finding Work-Family Balance in Academia by Rachel Connelly and Kristen Ghodsee.
Another category trend is reflected in the number of books that shine a humorous light on the anxiety around motherhood. From Hot Moms Club founder (hotmomsclub.com) and author of The Hot Mom to Be Handbook comes The Hot Mom's Handbook: Laugh and Feel Great from Playdate to Date Night... by Jessica Denay (Morrow, Mar.), which urges women not to lose themselves in the process of being a parent. A memorably titled trio of recent and forthcoming titles from Penguin USA may well leave a smile on mom's face—Exploiting My Baby: Because It's Exploiting Me by Teresa Strasser (NAL, Jan.), The Naked Mom: A Modern Mom's Fearless Revelations, Savvy Advice and Soulful Reflections by Brooke Burke (NAL, Feb.), and Got Milf?: The Modern Mom's Guide to Feeling Fabulous, Looking Great, and Rocking a Minivan by Sarah Maizes (Berkley, Apr.).
NAL executive editor Tracy Bernstein sees such books as indicative of the growing place of the parenting memoir as a category staple. "Even—maybe especially—the humorous ones are a way of saying, ‘You're not the only one who finds this hard or confusing or anxiety-provoking.' Sometimes just the communal sharing of that anxiety is the most important takeaway," she says.
But the need for funny goes beyond memoirs. A prime example is Alice Bradley and Eden M. Kennedy's Let's Panic About Babies! How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant Who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain, and Finally Turn You into a Worthwhile Human Being (St. Martin's Griffin, Mar.). The book's genesis can be traced to the popular authors' Web site (www.lets-panic.com) and instead of offering real advice, provides a satirical sendup of the plethora of somber, traditional baby and child-rearing guides. St. Martin's editor Alyse S. Diamond says, "It's particularly timely right now because it is a perfect antidote to the tiger mother mentality, and an ideal gift for that expectant or new mom who can't get through three pages of the earnest, instructive baby manuals without starting to panic."
Father Knows Best
But the panic these days isn't all for moms. More and more titles are aimed at including dad in the parenting conversation by illuminating issues surrounding fatherhood.
High-profile pop and noted comic Paul Reiser has proven himself a big draw in this category with his previous bestsellers, 1995's Couplehood and 1998's Babyhood. Now the father of two sons returns with Familyhood (Hyperion, May), which "shares his sharp observations on life as a parent with humor, warmth, and wit." In addition to its 200,000-copy first print, the book may well enjoy a sales boost from his return to TV with the upcoming NBC sitcom, The Paul Reiser Show, based on his family experiences.
And Ken Denmead, the world's most famous Geek Dad, from his popular Wired blog of the same name, returns with a follow-up to his first Geek Dad compendium of fun projects for dads and kids with The Geek Dad's Guide to Weekend Fun: Cool Hacks, Cutting-Edge Games, and More Awesome Projects for the Whole Family (Gotham, May). Gotham/Avery senior editor Lucia Watson says Geek Dad is beloved by many because "teaching kids about science and technology in today's world is more important than ever, and whether you are a parent or a kid, being a ‘geek' is totally cool."
Books about fatherhood aren't without a serious side, however. The popular NPR radio series This I Believe adds This I Believe: On Fatherhood by Dan Gediman, John Gregory, and Mary Jo Gediman (Jossey-Bass, May), placing heartbreaking memories alongside those filled with joy. And Keith Dixon's "touching, insightful, and uplifting" memoir, Cooking for Gracie: The Making of a Parent from Scratch (Crown, May), captures a year in the life of this new dad as he adjusts his complicated cooking hobby to accommodate the needs of a newborn; the book includes more than 40 recipes.
Another memoir, The Boy in the Moon: A Father's Journey to Understand His Extraordinary Son by Ian Brown (St. Martin's, Apr.) deals with the author's experience raising a son with a genetic mutation so rare only 300 people worldwide are diagnosed with it and grapples with profound questions about the value of human life. Characterizing the title as one of the most affecting memoirs he has ever read, SMP editor-in-chief George Witte says, "I find myself opening this book again and again, and learning something new about myself and my own family each time."
Finally, a book about fathers that may appeal to men and women alike is a May Rodale release, Our Fathers, Ourselves: Daughters, Fathers, and the Changing American Family by Peggy Drexler, author of Raising Boys Without Men, assistant professor of psychology in psychiatry at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University, and past guest on PBS, Today, and GMA. The book takes on the fallout that can be the result of father-daughter relationships, positing that all women have "daddy's girl" issues that wield a lifelong influence.
"While many books have addressed the relationship between parents and their children from a single-gender perspective—mothers and daughters, father and sons—Peggy Drexler offers the first serious investigation into the role of fathers in the lives of their daughters," says Julie Will, Rodale executive editor. The title "is sure to have people talking."
One thing is clear about today's parenting category: publishers have ensured there will be plenty of other hot topics once the Tiger Mother moment has passed.
New Diversity in the Mix
Titles submitted to PW for this feature represented a more diverse crop than in recent years, putting the traditional side-by-side with new issues and approaches.
Parenting advice doesn't get more classic than that offered by the renowned Sears family. Twenty years after the publication of their "baby bible," The Baby Book, comes The Portable Pediatrician: Everything You Need to Know About Your Child's Health by William, Martha, Robert, James, and Peter Sears (Little, Brown, Feb.). Covering everything from teething to eating disorders and sunburns, the guide encompasses infancy through the teen years. Adding a new twist, LB has produced its first-ever reference app to accompany the title, allowing readers to access the Searses' wisdom via iPhones and iPads.
For many parents, making sure kids eat well is becoming more important in light of the movement toward sustainability and locally sourced ingredients. Storey's The Cleaner Plate Club: Raising Healthy Eaters One Meal at a Time by mommy bloggers Beth Bader and Alison Benjamin (Jan.) offers simple solutions for feeding children real, healthy food and have them enjoy it. And education-focused Gryphon House offers two vibrant, activity-filled books designed to help kids ages three to six tackle their first cooking and garden projects—The Budding Chef and The Budding Gardener, March titles edited by Kate Kuhn and Mary B. Rein, respectively. Says Gryphon marketing director Cathy Calliotte, "Studies show that young children do not learn by ‘drill and kill' methods. Our authors are experts in the field and creating exciting learning experiences for children is what they do."
A different take on the role of projects and learning can be found in Science Fair Season: Twelve Kids, a Robot Named Scorch... and What It Takes to Win by Judy Dutton (Hyperion, Apr.), which examines how American high school students are solving complex science problems in profiles of 12 teens competing at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Hyperion plans a 50,000-copy first printing.
Other titles aim at helping parents learn more about their kids in order to meet their specific needs. such as Shana Connell Noyes's Get to Know Your Kid (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, Mar.) and Dr. Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson's The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind, Survive Everyday Parenting Struggles, and Help Your Family Thrive (Delacorte, Oct.).
Publishers also look to help parents whose children have special needs. Examples range from Positive Discipline for Children with Special Needs: Raising and Teaching All Children to Become Resilient, Responsible, and Respectful by Jane Nelsen, Steven Foster, and Arlene Raphael (Three Rivers, Mar.) to a full range of bibliotherapy titles for children of different ages from the American Psychological Association's Magination Press, including Chillax! How Ernie Learns to Chill Out, Relax, and Take Charge of His Anger (Aug.), Mighty Mike Bounces Back: A Boy's Life with Epilepsy (Sept.), and Russell's World: A Story for Kids About Autism (Mar.).
Skyhorse also offers its annually updated Cutting-Edge Therapies for Autism by Ken Siri and publisher Tony Lyons (Apr.) and The Myth of Autism: How a Misunderstood Epidemic Is Destroying Our Children by Dr. Michael Goldberg (Feb.). Lyons has a personal connection to the topic and feels strongly about ensuring parents of autistic children have the resource materials they need: "With a daughter suffering from autism, I am as committed to these books as anyone could possibly be," he says.
Increasingly, parents must deal with teaching their children not only about the environment that surrounds them but the host of complex environmental issues facing society. Two new April books—just in time for Earth Day—provide glimpses into how parents are tackling this challenge.
Environmental educator and author David Sobel chronicles his efforts to build a relationship between his children and the natural world through developmentally appropriate expeditions and activities in Wild Play: Parenting Adventures in the Great Outdoors, from Counterpoint's Sierra Club line. Editor Diana Landau says, "David is a great storyteller, and the kind of parenting he writes about is very important."
Da Capo's Merloyd Lawrence Books offers Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis by ecologist Sandra Steingraber. Through a blend of science and memoir, the author—who's been compared to Rachel Carson—shows how the everyday decisions of parenting relate to larger public policy and scientific issues. "All the parenting advice in the world is of little use if we are raising children in an environment that poisons their bodies and minds," says editor Lawrence. "It would be great to see other books that bring solid science, a beautifully told story, and some wit to the earnest and parochial advice that bombards parents."
And Now, Year Two
It's a safe bet that an expectant or new mother has read Heidi Murkoff's What to Expect When You're Expecting: according to USA Today, 93% of pregnant women read it. The title—and others in the What to Expect series that followed—have sold more than 34 million copies in the U.S. alone and have been published in more than 30 languages. Workman is understandably excited about the April arrival of Murkoff's What to Expect the Second Year, with a planned 250,000-copy first printing.
The sequel to What to Expect the First Year presents parents with a primer on children 12–24 months. "Rich with information and practical advice, it takes parents topic by topic through all the second year's memorable milestones," says Workman executive editor Suzanne Rafer. Those milestones include everything from walking and tantrums to dealing with evolving eating and sleeping habits.
Rafer notes that the book had a nostalgic effect for her. "This book is such a good read, when I was working on it, it made me wish my daughter was still a toddler so I could experience all the joy and wonder of this remarkable year again."
Navigating Teen Times and Beyond
Several books recognize that parents also need guidance for dealing with their children's teen years—and, in many cases, with their adulthood.
On the way are two books from a noted pediatrician and expert on teenage development, Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg—a newly revised edition of Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots and Wings (American Academy of Pediatrics, Apr.) and Letting Go with Love and Confidence: Raising Responsible, Resilient, Self-Sufficient Teens in the 21st Century (Avery, Aug.).
Teen parenting expert John Duffy offers The Available Parent: Radical Optimism for Raising Teens and Tweens (Cleis Press/Viva Editions), encouraging parents to be accessible and approachable but not pushy. Says associate publisher Brenda Knight, "Many of today's moms and dads are ‘helicopter parents' who hover, coddle, and overparent. We're hopeful that we can usher in a new era of appropriate parenting."
A new title by a noted authorial duo speaks directly to teens on everything from sex to emotions—Dr. Michael Roizen and Dr. Mehmet Oz's You: The Owner's Manual for Teens is due in June from Free Press. Also due in June is the Free Press reprint of Barbara K. Hofer and Abigail Sullivan Moore's The iConnected Parent: Staying Close to Your Kids in College (and Beyond) While Letting Them Grow Up. And Helen Johnson and Christine Schelas-Miller's Don't Tell Me What to Do, Just Send Money (St. Martin's, July) has been updated to address how advances in technology have changed the way parents deal with college-age children.
Released late last year by Ballantine, Richard Settersten and Barbara Ray's Not Quite Adults: Why 20-Somethings Are Choosing a Slower Path to Adulthood, and Why It's Good for Everyone takes a positive slant on the growing cultural trend of children living at home longer and needing more parental assistance as they enter adulthood. "This book gives guidelines for parents on how they should move forward and to young adults about how to feel about the support they receive," says assistant editor Angela Polidoro. "With our cultural changes, today's path to adulthood is very different."
Still other books are designed to help parents deal with issues of their own. These range from dealing with the loss of one's own parents—Parentless Parents: How the Loss of Our Mothers and Fathers Impacts the Way We Raise Our Children by Allison Gilbert (Hyperion, Feb.)—to maintaining relationships with adult children after they find spouses in When Your Children Marry: How Marriage Changes Relationships with Sons and Daughters by Deborah M. Merrill (Rowman & Littlefield, June).