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Healing Your Child’s Brain: A Proven Approach to Helping Your Child Thrive

Matthew and Carol Newell. BenBella, $17.95 trade paper (270p) ISBN 978-1-950665-43-3

Parents should focus on their child’s neurology to help them thrive, advise Matthew and Carol Newell, married founders of the Family Home Center, in this unorthodox guide. They take the perspective that treating ADHD, autism, and dyslexia with a pathology-driven approach obscures the root of the problem, and instead suggest a program based on neuroplasticity. The authors present a simple overview of neurology, breaking down each area of the brain, and provide a chart to help parents evaluate skills associated with seven areas of brain function (a child should be able to recognize shapes by two months, for example). Activities are based on the idea that brain growth comes from sensory stimulation: light and dark training sessions strengthen the light reflex in blind children who lack it, while crawling exercises can help with focus and attention (even for older children). The authors also make a variety of standard holistic parenting suggestions, such as eating a diet free of processed foods, getting sufficient sleep, and using toxin-free cleaning products. “Family Success Story” sidebars serve mostly as testimonials for the Newells’ in-person program. Still, parents frustrated with discouraging prognoses and traditional approaches will find this guide clear enough to understand the philosophy, and straightforward enough to give some of the ideas a try. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 02/26/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Under Western Skies: Visionary Gardens from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Coast

Jennifer Jewell. Timber, $50 (424p) ISBN 978-1-60469-999-9

“The West and its gardens and gardeners have lessons for us all,” writes Jewell (The Earth in Her Hands), creator of the radio program Cultivating Place, in this vibrant tour of three dozen gardens. Each entry surveys the locale, the plants, and the gardener behind it: Michele Shelor’s “Desert Modern” in Phoenix, Ariz., for example, is filled with only native plants that receive water through drip irrigation. (Water is, not surprisingly, a theme throughout gardens in the American West.) The garden at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles is cared for by Lila Higgins, who believes that understanding a region’s natural beauty may require addressing how much water is enough, while Suzanne St. Pierre, the retired nurserywoman of Palouse Garden in Pullman, Wash., believes humans are “encoded as creatures to respond to beauty.” Along the way, Jewell pays tribute to the Indigenous homelands upon which these gardens grow, such as San Francisco’s Lands End Lookout, which was first lived on by the Ohlone and Miwok people, and the Chumash Indian Museum’s “ethnobotanical garden” in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Rich photographs complement Jewell’s lyrical musings (“The Sonoran Desert bears a strong sense of the ephemeral”). Gardeners are in for a treat. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/26/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Bringing up Bookmonsters: The Joyful Way to Turn Your Child into a Fearless, Ravenous Reader

Amber and Andy Ankowski. The Experiment, $16.95 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-61519-586-2

Wife and husband Amber Ankowski, a psychology professor, and Andy Ankowski, a writer, follow up Think Like a Baby with a delightful guide to instilling a love of reading in children. All children have a “bookmonster” inside, the authors advise, and parents can bring it out by incorporating reading into everyday life and making it fun. Their advice comes in four sections that cover child development, reader-friendly environments (with books at eye level, or letting children take the lead at the library), a “grocery list of materials, activities, and talking points,” and guidance for advance practices such as writing. The authors write with humor and whimsy (“Cover yourself in khaki and throw on one of those big, round explorer hats. Because we’re about to go on an adventure... deep into the lair of the legendary, elusive creature known as the bookmonster”), but keep their advice practical, with suggestions, for instance, to talk to children and play word games early, read aloud with expression, and use books as a way to discuss family values. For parents looking to bolster literacy, these encouraging tips will feel like an easy-to-follow treasure map. Agent: Uwe Stender, Triada US Literary. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/26/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Becoming a Soulful Parent: A Path to the Wisdom Within

Dasee Berkowitz. Kasva, $14.95 trade paper (182p) ISBN 978-1-948403-19-1

Parents must listen to their own inner voices before they can attend to their children’s needs, advises educational consultant Berkowitz in her insightful debut. Many books on parenting are counterproductive, she writes, as parents often end up feeling like failures when they try to apply what they’ve learned and come up short. To reorient thinking, Berkowitz proposes four questions—“Where am I (given an issue or question)? How do I want to grow? What obstacles get in my way? What’s a small step I can take toward moving forward?”—rather than how-tos, personal anecdotes, or workbook exercises. Answering these questions, Berkowitz writes, will bring parents in touch with their own spirituality and inner voice, allowing for better communication and problem-solving. Frank about her own mistakes and struggles, she recounts how she dealt with her children’s outbursts at school (by asking herself what she was “called on” to teach in that moment ) and confronted unwelcome distance in her marriage (by checking in with herself and not letting the relationship function “on autopilot”). While references to Jewish philosophies and concepts are plentiful, the issues she confronts are universal, such as limiting screen time, dealing with sibling rivalries, and balancing differing parenting styles. Parents in search of a more spiritual approach to raising their kids will appreciate these useful lessons. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 02/26/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Farmhouse Weekends: Menus for Relaxing Country Meals All Year Long

Melissa Bahen. Gibbs Smith, $30 (208p) ISBN 978-1-4236-5672-2

Lulu the Baker blogger Bahen (Scandinavian Gatherings) makes a convincing case in this winsome outing that one doesn’t have to live in the country to “slow down and enjoy good people, delicious food, and experiences worth savoring.” Though she and her family moved into their “dream farmhouse” in 2014, she and her husband have kept up their regular nine-to-five lives during the week, but during the weekend things take a bucolic turn, with much time spent in the kitchen. Here, Bahen lays out the kinds of things that occupy her weekend, and which she suggests are just as easy to do for city-bound cooks. Recipes are arranged by season and lean toward classic comfort fare, with, for instance, parmesan risotto for spring, a “Height of Summer Salad,” two kinds of chili for fall, and a potato-leek soup for winter. Dishes cover the bases, from sweet and savory breakfast options to both light and heavy desserts, with a number of salads, sides, and soups to sit alongside the mains. Recipes feature easy-to-find ingredients, are accompanied by gorgeous photographs, and include options that will appeal to any palette (kids might especially appreciate the pan-fried chicken tenders). Home chefs with picky eaters, or those craving good-old-fashioned comfort food should take a look. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/26/2021 | Details & Permalink

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No Recipe? No Problem!: How to Pull Together Tasty Meals Without a Recipe

Phyllis Good. Storey, $19.95 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-63586-258-4

Good (the Fix-it and Forget-it series) returns with a winning guide on how to successfully wing it in the kitchen. This way of cooking, which is to say without a traditional recipe, allows “ingredients lead the way and [allows readers] to improvise.” The book is loosely organized by food type (veggies, grains, proteins) and relies on charts, technique tutorials, and “freestyle cooking ideas” that can be applied to any number of items, based on what’s on hand. There are, for instance, a chart delineating the best methods for cooking 23 different vegetables, a pair of charts for cooking 15 types of grains either on the stovetop or in a pressure cooker, and another series of charts for estimating cooking times for various cuts of meat. Solid primers cover essential cooking skills—sautéing, braising, roasting, broiling, etc.—and advice from members of the Cooking Circle, a virtual community of experienced improvisational cooks, appears throughout (“Grain and pasta dishes are great for a potluck or carry-in”). With its clean design and easy-to-follow instructions, this should be a hit with novice cooks looking to sharpen their kitchen chops. (May)

Reviewed on 02/26/2021 | Details & Permalink

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The Montessori Baby: A Parent’s Guide to Nurturing Your Baby with Love, Respect, and Understanding

Simone Davies and Junnifa Uzodike. Workman, $19.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-5235-1240-9

Montessori teachers Davies (The Montessori Toddler) and Uzodike deliver a calming and encouraging guide to using the Montessori principles of child-led exploration. Focusing on the Montessori philosophy of “giving them as little help as possible and as much as necessary,” the authors encourage parents to respect a newborn’s self-development. They advise communicating with babies from the beginning by using “rich, beautiful language” to ask permission before picking them up, watching carefully for their responses, and never interrupting their concentration. For each stage of development, the authors suggest creating an exciting but orderly environment that a child can safely explore: art should be hung at babies’ eye level, a movement mat can help babies before they learn to crawl, a floor bed can prevent a crawling baby from rolling out while still allowing them to crawl out independently, and a wall bar with a mirror behind it can support babies who are ready to stand. The authors also touch on developmentally appropriate objects, such as mobiles to help with visual development, and a low table and chair for babies who can sit. The guide is thoughtfully and beautifully laid out: block text, bulleted lists, and simple line illustrations accent the many anecdotes about babies and their living spaces from around the world. For parents interested in Montessori concepts of child development, this will be an invaluable resource. Color illustrations and photos. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/26/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Simplicity at Home: Japanese Rituals, Recipes, and Arrangements for Thoughtful Living

Yumiko Sekine with Jenny Wapner. Chronicle, $27.50 (224p) ISBN 978-1-7972-0295-2

Sekine, creator of the lifestyle brand Fog Linen Work, debuts with an inspiring take on her “joyfully minimalist” approach to decorating, entertaining, and organizing. She encourages readers to make use of what they already have, and her tips are organized by season: summer’s advice includes organizing trinkets (and purging them, when necessary), lightening up the color palette of one’s home, and making cold noodles with tempura. Autumn brings instructions for piecing together leftover fabric to make curtains, tips on selecting plants for a garden, and instructions for drying vegetables. Winter’s program includes closet organization, a wreath project, and a recipe for vegetable sushi, while spring shows readers how to make scarves, dye old clothes, and arrange flowers. Sekine’s approach to repurposing old objects—which she applies to linens and broken dishes—are great for the green-minded, and she frames projects in easy-to-follow instructions that will appeal to even the least crafty of readers. Vivid photographs spotlight the author’s spare aesthetic, complemented by heartfelt prose: “It gives me such pleasure to find a new life for a beloved object.” Perfect for fans of Marie Kondo, these tips will delight readers with a less-is-more mindset. Agent: Michele Crim, MBG Literary. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 02/26/2021 | Details & Permalink

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À Table: Recipes for Cooking and Eating the French Way

Rebekah Peppler. Chronicle, $29.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-79720-223-5

Food writer Peppler (Apéritif: Cocktail Hour the French Way) returns with a breezy cookbook to help readers recreate “the elegant, sexy, sparkling charm that is a French evening.” She divides the work into three sections, covering before, during, and after dinner, leading off with a selection of aperitifs that offer twists on classics such as the 50/50 martini (made with equal parts gin and vermouth) and an amaro old fashioned, and small plates, notably a French take on Spanish pintxos that calls for, among other items, potato chips, anchovies, and sausage. Mains include French standard bearers—ratatouille, cassoulet, daube de bouef—as well as a “Bigger Bánh Mi” and a green shakshuka. Desserts run the gamut from an ice cream inspired by a discontinued Häagen Dazs flavor to “Sablés, But Not, Like, Regular Sablés, Cool Sablés.” Envy-inducing photographs of dinner scenes and cityscapes appear throughout, and Peppler’s easygoing tone goes a long way toward making it seem like pulling off a Parisian-inspired soirée might not be exactly effortless, but perhaps close to it (and well worth doing). As much a lifestyle guide as a culinary one, this is a no-brainer for Francophiles. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/26/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Sumac: Recipes and Stories from Syria

Anas Atassi. Interlink, $35 (248p) ISBN 978-1-62371-897-8

Atassi debuts with an inspired collection of traditional and contemporary recipes from his homeland, dishes he hopes can help build a bridge between Syrian culture and the rest of the world. Drawing from his family history and the meals he ate growing up, Atassi shares recipes that accompanied seminal moments from his youth, like from-scratch beef sausage with garlic and pistachios (his childhood version was canned) and the foul mudammas his grandmother would make. Recipes are loosely organized by time of day, with, for instance, chickpeas in a yogurt tahini sauce to start the day, filo rolls with cheese filling for an afternoon bite, and chicken kofta kebabs and a salad with watermelon, halloumi, and mint for dinner. The recipes are accessible even for less experienced cooks, and with few exceptions, the ingredients should be easy to source at most grocery stores. A handy section on setting up a Syrian pantry and a collection of recipes for frequently used condiments and sauces will acquaint home cooks with the basics, and the author’s inviting tone and balance of instruction and reflection amp up appeal. Those with an interest in Syrian cuisine couldn’t hope for a better starting point. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 02/26/2021 | Details & Permalink

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