Another cross-section of (mostly) vacation reading – one for the car, one from a friend, and a couple to read to your favorite child. And, ok, every one involving children or childbirth. I’m working on a different kind of book, promise!
Birthing from Within by Pam England A little older than most of the childbirth books I’ve been reading, but still well worth it. This book is about childbirth, specifically from the mother’s point of view, with some attention to the partner. She’s not so much interested in natural vs. assisted birth, as in the parents getting connected with their feelings and fears about childbirth and impending parenthood. You can’t control what will happen, she seems to say, and your experience will not be the medical event your doctor will tell you about. Prepare for what you can, address your fears – and there’s also a lot on natural pain relief techniques. Birth is an important rite of passage, and learning only about the three stages of labor won’t prepare you for this side of things.
Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath Trust Polly Horvath to write a funny and yet touching book about a seemingly depressing subject. Primrose lives in a small fishing village in British Columbia with her parents, until they are lost at sea. Everyone else is convinced that they are dead, but Primrose, narrating, is so convinced that they will come back that the book is saved from being the mournful reflections of a new orphan. Instead, she explores life inside the village as she is passed around from one person to the next. From the old maid she was first left with, to her happy-go-lucky uncle, the stuck-up school counselor and the owner of the town’s one restaurant, the characters are full of vivid and amusing life. I especially enjoyed listening to the young, scrappy-sounding voice of the narrator on the audio version.
Mother Shock: Loving Every (Other) Minute of It by Andrea Buchanan Thanks to garrity for loaning me this one. So, you’re about to become a mother for the first time, talking to mothers you know, reading books on the subject, hanging out with the children of friends. Are you prepared? No, says Buchanan. Motherland is an entirely different country, and you’re reading guidebooks and talking to natives. The shock of adjusting to new parenthood has stages very similar to culture shock, from euphoria to hatred of the new culture to final adjustment. Buchanan shares her own experiences in a series of essays grouped around each of these stages. More important than the stages, though, is her firm conviction that not every part of being a mother is fun. Acknowledging this often taboo fact does not mean that you don’t love your child or are a bad parent. Life is always complex, and we shouldn’t expect parenting to be different. Though the premise may sound academic, the book isn’t, with Buchanan’s essays sharing the nitty-gritty tears, laughter, and exhaustion of the new mother.
Not One Damsel in Distress: World Folktales for Strong Girls by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Susan Guevara
Fairy Tales by Berlie Doherty, illustrated by Jane Ray
These are two lovely collections of fairy tales that I recently shared with the 5-year-old Wild Woman, and which we both greatly enjoyed. Not One Damsel in Distress, as the title indicates, features only stories with strong heroines – not modern-day fantasies, but real, strong folk heroes who have made it through the centuries. I keep a sharp eye out for collections of this nature, and this is one of the best. It’s a few stories common to collections of this nature (though mostly not so well known otherwise), and many that even I had never seen before – crack to the fairy tale collector. More important to the Wild Woman, Yolen is an amazing storyteller, able to tell a compelling story in a multitude of different styles. The illustrations didn’t do much for me, but WW didn’t seem to mind, and you can’t have everything.
The Doherty collection is mostly fairy tale standards – “Snow White”, “Rapunzel” – with a few less common stories like the Russian tale “The Firebird” thrown in. It’s not the addiction of new stories that Yolen had for me, but these are stories that every child should grow up with. Doherty is an award-winning British author and tells the stories lyrically, attentive to their original sources. However, what really makes this book shine are the illustrations. Every page is illustrated in full color with gold accents, with each tale having its own frame. The characters, while much more simply dressed than typical in fairy tales, look beautiful. They are multiethnic without making a big deal about it – just people of fairly indeterminate race but different skin tones interacting in a magical fairy tale world. If you know a child who needs a basic collection of fairy tales to love, this would be my top pick.