Author Laurie Frankel
This book made my heart sing. It focuses on troubling and complex themes with a deft lightness of touch and a spirit of hope, as well as subtle humour and an engaging style. Described as, “a warm, touching and bittersweet novel about a family that’s just like any other – until it’s not”, Frankel has woven an engrossing story about a sprawling, happy family forced to confront and manage the ‘difference’ with the youngest family member, five-year-old Claude. Far from being ‘just a novel about a transgender kid’, this is a book about how people deal with children who don’t quite fit into the right box, and what it means to the child and all the family members when this happens. “When he grows up, Claude says he wants to be a girl” is how gender dysphoria is introduced to the reader on the back cover. The narrative captures the confusion and mixed emotions of the well educated, open-minded parents and their rambunctious tribe of boys – including Claude, who from a very young age, acts out his deepest desires of transforming to the little girl he feels he is inside. The story is told primarily from the points of view of each of Claude’s wise and loving parents, but at a crucial age and time, it switches to Claude/Poppy for much-needed insight into her feelings. This is definitely one of those books that I never wanted to end; it’s a valuable topic and, importantly, a very good story.
For details visit https://www.hachette.com.au/laurie-frankel/this-is-how-it-always-is
Author Edited by Grace Halphen
Publisher Affirm Press
At 15 years old, the instigator of this book had a great idea – tap into the wisdom of adults but present it to young people in a palatable fashion. It’ a great concept, going back in time in our memories to help ourselves figure out how to get through tough times. I hope the idea appeals to teens today and I intend to test it on mine now that I’ve finished the book. But all clever ideas need enthralling content to help them fly – and this is where this book does at times, fall short. The stories/advice that really touched me were not necessarily the ones by people I’d even heard of, and sometimes – Guy Sebastian is a case in point – it surprised me how eloquent and thoughtful the author was compared with the many stories that struck me as somewhat trite and clichéd. Sure, they all meant well, but I do wonder at the staying power of teens to read every chapter. For me, the first third of the book is nowhere near as interesting as the second half, and while that may be my individual preferences, there is a risk that readers won’t find the gold hidden amongst the rubble. Out of the impressive list of contributors such as Judith Lucy, Missy Higgins, Layne Beachley, Shaun Tan, Kate Ceberano, Peter Alexander, Danii Minogue, Adam Gilchrist, David Koch, Chet Faker and Natasha Stott Despoja, it is the lesser known people such as social entrepreneur Elliot Costello, facilitator with the Reach Foundation Glen Christie, research biologist Sir Gustav Nossal, journalist Rafael Epstein and playwright Richard Frankland whose chapters I enjoyed most. It’s interesting to think which chapters might appeal more to young people or to the different genders for that matter. If you have a resident teen, consider this diverse and accessible collection – the profits go to the worthy cause, the Reach Foundation, which helps teenagers to reach their full potential. For details visit www.affirmpress.com.au.
Author Debora Krizak
Publisher Balboa Press / Hay House USA
ISBN 978 1 4525 1020 0
Infertility is a distressing and unexpected reality for thousands of women. In this interesting book the author documents her 6 year journey through the ups and downs of IVF to eventually, after several false alarms, realising her dreams. Written in the form of diary entries, the book documents Krizak’s feelings, fears, joys and deepest despair. As a woman who conceived effortlessly, twice in my mid-to-late 30s, this book brought home the intense rollercoaster of IVF that several of my friends have subjected themselves to. It’s valuable reading for anyone seeking out IVF stories. For more information see here.
Author Leisa Stathis
Publisher Finch Publishing Sydney
ISBN 16 15 87654321
“In the moment of birth it is not only a baby that is born, but a mother too.”
Written by a Parenting Express writer, this thoughtful and intelligent book says succinctly and engagingly what may seem obvious – that as mothers we need to cut ourselves some slack and realise that the skills and arts of mothering must be learned, and that it takes time to get it right. Even then, we all create our own version of what is ‘right’ or ‘good enough’. A family therapist and social worker, Stathis captures her own thoughts and reflections on stages of motherhood, supplemented by snippets from other mothers about key issues and challenges (‘mother wisdom’) and thoughts for reflection (or summaries of the main points). The book explores both the emotional and the practical journey; it is respectful, insightful and easy to read. It names and faces the lows (the days you feel will never end, when you just want to escape) as well as the highs (falling in love with your baby, and those precious moments or days when everything feels right and easy). Focusing on the first year, I found much wisdom here within these pages, especially acknowledging how ill prepared we often are for the reality of the first couple of months of life with a newborn (called ‘the forth trimester’ by Leisa).
“From the moment the baby is born, many women place incredible pressure upon themselves to be perfect mothers, to love their babies instantly and to feel confident in the role of parent,” says Leisa. “The honest truth is that motherhood doesn’t simply come ‘naturally’ and often we simply need time. The first year is a time of profound transformation, not just within our babies, but also within our relationship and our identity.”Read an extract here.
Author Dr Shefali Tsabary
Publisher Namaste Publishing Inc
ISBN 978 1 897238 76 9
Described as a “breakthrough parenting book that offers solutions to your parenting challenges”, this second book by Dr Tsabary offers the same thoughtful approach and basic premise of her first title The conscious parent: Transforming ourselves, empowering our children (see review by scrolling below).
The author argues that to parent effectively, we need to develop a deep connection with our children, so that we address the feelings that drive behavior instead of dishing out punishment – even if under the name of ‘consequences’.
“Generations the world over have subscribed to an approach to parenting which states that… the parent is at the top of the pyramid and the child…at the bottom…Unless we realize the entire premise of child discipline is based on our delusion of superiority over our children, the daily struggles with behavior that play out in our homes…will continue unabated,” writes Dr Tsabary.
This, in a nutshell is the essence of this book – that it’s time to change the entire paradigm of parenting, which has at its core the “flawed idea of discipline”.
It’s a difficult book to absorb in its entirety and as much as I support Dr Tsabary’s arguments and wholeheartedly agreed with her first book, I found myself questioning some suggestions here in this one, especially around alternatives to the traditional ideas of ‘time out’ or ‘consequences’ for children and young people. At its core, she says that “the system of rewards and punishments undercuts the child’s capacity to learn self-discipline” – not an entirely new idea, although she does write convincingly on the topic in the chapter ‘Why discipline doesn’t work’.
“The role of the parent is to help the child learn for themselves,” Dr Tsabary says, developing her theme of connection with the child at the ‘feeling’ level and against punitive punishments that bear no relation to ‘real-life’ consequences.
I was also interested to read about avoiding rescuing our children from natural consequences – unless basic safety is at risk of course – an intrusion I confess to being guilty of (note to self: stop intervening in my son’s homework!).
Don’t be misled into thinking that Dr Tsabary is suggesting a ‘no boundaries’ approach to parenting; she argues that limits are, of course, necessary, but that they need to be practical, clear and consistent. “Relationships thrive when there is mutual respect,” she writes. She firmly promotes a partnership ideal and rejects the tradition of the parent as dictator.
On the whole, there are a lot of ideas and arguments here that are bound to be confronting to many parents, but I recommend this deeply inspiring book to parents interested in truly examining their own childhood and past, their behavior and their attitudes for the benefit of their children. I found pearls of wisdom on every page – here are just a few:
“Our children didn’t come into the world to be our puppets – they came to struggle, fumble, thrive, and enjoy – a journey for which they need our encouragement.”
“A child’s feelings can seem silly to us as adults, but they aren’t silly to the child.”
“To honour a child’s feelings doesn’t mean we capitulate to their wishes.”
“In the case of older children, parents need to realize that the only thing that matters is the relationship we share with them.”
“Lack of heart creates the bully, the criminal, the rapist and the psychopath – not a lack of discipline.”
For details about how to purchase the book visit www.namastepublishing.com.
Author Dr Tim Hawkes
Publisher Hachette Australia
ISBN 978 0 7336 3174
As a result of immersing myself in this engrossing, funny and sensible book aimed at parents (more particularly, fathers I suspect) I found myself tearing up on many occasions, laughing out loud, and highlighting rather a lot of salient points for future reference. Dr Tim Hawkes’ obvious expertise in this topic stems from both his skills as a father of boys, and as a headmaster, educator, social commentator and author. He has neatly divided up what is a very accessible book into chapters about these 10 ‘conversations’ – essentially key topics that Dr Hawkes believes are imperative for the healthy development of all boys into well-functioning men. Into these chapters he injects humour, practical advice and ‘ideas’ as well as a summary at the end of each chapter. The 10 key topics he has selected are: You are loved, Identity, Values, Leadership, Living together, Achievement, Sex, Money, Health, and Coping. Preceding these are chapters on why, what and how, which firstly, present the basic facts and arguments – for example under ‘why’ – “because of a wearying amount of evidence that too many of our sons are starting adulthood with insufficient mentoring,” and “the time has come for parents to recover the value of regular conversations with each other. Failure to do so will impoverish both, an hinder the transfer of wisdom and experience from one generation to the next.”
An absolute ‘must read’ for parents of boys – stay tuned for the next edition when we will feature an excerpt from the book. For details visit Booktopia.
“Every son needs to know that he is a biological wonder and a miracle of creation…Our sons need to know where they stand. An alarming number, however, appear happy to progress through life without cause, creed or conviction. They do not know themselves. They have no understanding of their unique gifts. They have no idea of who they are or what they want to become.”
Authors Pam Withers and Cynthia Gill
Publisher Viva Editions
As a mother of boys, this is a book about a subject close to my heart. I found great words of wisdom and many accessible, practical ideas and solutions here, with a goal to empower parents – “helping them reclaim the duties and rewards of raising their children and navigate the influences of school and media – addressing the crisis of the education system failing boys with real solutions that will work in an everyday household.” On the whole, it is a book that lives up to its PR – the authors (who are sisters and both parents of boys) suggest that by working with their child, parents can help him be the best he can be.
They begin by making a bold statement that, “everyone knows boys are falling behind in education. Largely left out of the discussion are parents of boys, who are most aware that their bright, eager sons hit an invisible wall somewhere near fourth grade, after which they become disengaged, discouraged, and disaffected.” The emphasis here is on the importance of boys achieving high-levels skills in reading and writing in order to succeed in tomorrow’s world, and on providing parents with ideas about how to combat the varied cultural, genetic and social drawbacks that may affect boys’ success. The authors present solid international evidence that boys are underachieving and falling behind girls in primary school and early high school, but also plenty of good news about the ability of boys to catch up and regain ground that may have been lost in an education system that favours girls. The endless distractions (“time sinks”) for today’s young person are also well covered. While this book is actually much more than a guide to engaging boys in reading and writing, it is this topic that is covered in the most depth. “Reading confidence is the keystone to educational success,” claim the authors, and they back up this statement very persuasively. It is well structured with personal case studies (‘Happy endings’), useful advice lists (eg, Seven ways to help turn your son around) and Q&As with notable interviewees. The section ‘Who’s the boss?’ resonated so strongly with me that I have it on my bedroom wall! I’m sure this is a book I will come back to time and time again. To purchase the book visit www.vivaeditions.com/book_page.php?book_id=63. To read an excerpt from the book click here.
Author Nicole Trope
Publisher Allen & Unwin
ISBN 978 1 74331 315 2
‘Haunting’ and ‘engaging’ seem terribly weak descriptions of this arresting novel that promises to hold the reader on the edge of their seat – and delivers. Speaking personally, the novel’s plot and theme resonated deeply with me as a mother; the central character, Liz did seem, at times, to be overly passive and weak but as we read on we see the darker secrets of her marriage and past, which do explain her stance. This is a disturbing psychological thriller and while the topic centres on motherhood and a mother’s overwhelming love for and connection to her children, it is not a novel for the faint-hearted. The real-world connections with now well-known cases not dissimilar to the plot here in this masterful novel haunted me and serve to remind us of important questions about how we as a society can better protect our children from unstable and mentally unwell parents. One such question is whether a parent’s right to have contact with their child should have greater priority than the child’s safety – so many issues, as in the novel, can only be known ‘with the benefit of hindsight’. This is Trope’s third novel and is definitely one worth pursuing for not only is it a rollicking and fast-past read, it is a thought-provoking topic showing realistic characters and all-too realistic outcomes. A link to the first chapter and purchasing information is available here.
Author Sharon Kernot
Publisher Wakefield Press
ISBN 978 1 74305 192 4
This Australian author, Sharon Kernot, is a poet and writer whose work has been featured here on Parenting Express for many years. Her debut novel is a gritty and engaging read about poverty and its effects on families; it covers themes such as social isolation, domestic violence and gambling addiction. Centred around a group of people living in the same street, the novel deftly explores the lives of four characters. Through separate chapters told from each person’s perspective we meet a young and troubled boy, Damien, who is perhaps the main character. He lives in daily terror of his violent and unpredictable step-father in an environment that could only be described as worrying, if not downright harrowing. The novel’s other characters – all neighbours – grapple with a disappointing retirement and its relationship pressures, gambling addiction and loneliness, and mental illness. What is most striking is that all characters are trapped in social isolation and loneliness, disconnected from the people only metres away from them. A mature, thoughtful novel by an author with direct experience in child protection and poverty, who says: “poverty and disadvantage impacts on all aspects of a person's life... education, mental and physical health, addictions, employment and parenting. The novel’s title came to me because the street in which the characters live is central and the word ‘underground’ also has connotations with things dark, hidden and buried, which suit the themes of the book.” Read an excerpt here and click here for purchasing details.
Author Jennifer Forest
Publisher Artisan House
This is both a personal ‘self-help’ book as well as a very practical one; the author shares her own experiences of combining work with family and we view each of the examples provided through a helpful lens of Forest’s own making. Right up front we read her story and her calm and considered voice is present throughout each of the interviews with women who tried their ideas in the marketplace and made a go of it. All types of businesses are covered here – crafty skills, share trading, blogs and online options, party plans and, like the author, being a professional writer. This isn’t a book about ‘getting rich quick’; it’s about genuinely matching your personality and circumstances to opportunities to make what Forest terms ‘decent’ money. “Why can’t mothers have time to take their children to the playground and still make decent money?” Forest asks. The author’s seven key questions are the backbone of this book – starting with ‘what kind of person are you?’ and ending with ‘Are you prepared to learn?’ – they cover the fields of personality, time, money, skills, mindset, authenticity and learning. If combining an income with parenting is your goal, this could be just the book to help you get started.
Author Michelle Worthington
Publisher Mostly for Mothers/Wombat Books
For those women – for this book is aimed at women, particularly mothers – who find themselves picking up the pieces of their lives after separation and divorce, this is a very useful little book. It’s easy to read and glows with a warmth and understanding from an author who’s been there before. Above all it’s practical, with advice about what needs to be done and why. There are inspiring quotes throughout the book and it’s well structured to invite you inside to learn and consider, but without overwhelming the reader. The personal anecdotes are also an interesting touch. To read a piece by the author here on Parenting Express, see her memoir on the topic of separation and children. For purchasing and other details see www.wombatbooks.com.au
Author Kim Lock
Publisher MidnightSun Publishing
ISBN 978 0 9873809 1 3
It’s a rare thing that a writer can make the subject matter of life in the tropics and the untimely discovery of first-time pregnancy a funny and engaging topic, a feat that Kim Locke achieves here in abundance. This really is a laugh-out-loud kind of book and I found it immensely entertaining as well as being a near-faultless piece of writing from a debut Australian novelist. The steamy tropical setting of Northern Australia comes to life almost as a character in itself here, with the story revolving around the likeable and amusing young woman, Amy Silva, and her ‘rampant fertility’, which leads to the surprising discovery that she is pregnant at a time and in an environment that, for her, is far from perfect. Her dissatisfaction with a haughty and uncaring obstetrician lead her to make a rebellious and unpopular decision to homebirth – but, inconveniently, a cyclone makes an appearance at the crucial stage. The relationship with her brave and supportive boyfriend is lovingly portrayed despite its rough edges, and all of Amy’s flaws and foibles present funny, poignant and page-turning reading – all the more so for the reader who is interested in pregnancy and birthing. You can read Chapter One here at Parenting Express and find out further details from the publisher http://midnightsunpublishing.com/
Author Kate Hopper
Publisher Viva Editions
ISBN 9781936740 123
Creativity explored through the lens of motherhood is becoming increasingly more common, perhaps as the complex and powerful themes of motherhood and raising children become more widely recognised as legitimate and worthy of literature. Here, writer and lecturer, Kate Hopper, has crafted something between a useful and explicit guide to the business of creative non-fiction/memoir writing, and a collection of engaging and moving memoirs by other writer-mothers. These are cleverly used to illustrate points in Hopper’s teaching – voice, humour, anger, fear, self-exploration, reflection and structure, for example. Each memoir example breathes life into what is already a well-written and instructive text. In fact, I’d go so far as to suggest that this book is ESSENTIAL READING for any mother-writer seeking to improve her skills and explore her deep well of subject matter. The book, while targeting mothers, does just as well assisting fathers to find and hone their stories; to find the gold amongst the dross and to craft their work for maximum impact. I particularly appreciated each chapters’ ‘Jumping off points’ – suggestions for further work or musing. Hopper manages to both inspire other mothers seeking to find their ‘art through their hearts’, as well as to enlighten us with the choices and writing journeys others have made or lived. This is a must-have book for any parent interested in self-exploration and self-expression through language. See an excerpt here. For purchasing details visit www.motherhoodandwords.com or www.katehopper.com.
Author Andrew Lansdown
Publisher EvenBefore Publishing/Wombat Books
Spanning 35 years of fatherhood, with five children born over an 18-year period, Andrew Lansdown has captured here in this collection of poetry a glimpse of fatherhood that is both fascinating and moving. As if looking through a keyhole at his life, we see his portraits of his children and of moments in their lives at varying ages – his first son was at university when his last son was born. The poems in this collection are gathered from 12 published collections of poetry – some have been revised – and other new poems have made their first entry in print here. The subject of the poems captures everyday life and fragments of bliss with young children, middle-years children and children who miscarried. There are many poems that touched me – one of which is reprinted with permission here. For more information visit the publisher’s website at www.wombatbooks.com.au
Author Eliza Muldoon
ISBN 978174237 8657
Keeping children at the centre is the ethos at the heart of his crafty gem of a book, that guarantees to help your creative juices to flow, with the added benefit of involving your children and keeping them busy. There are 52 appealing and yet very simple craft ideas featured in the beautifully presented book, with engaging photography to pique your interest. The ideas are based on the author’s long history of crafting and creating using nothing more than household items or easily purchased, cheap craft supplies. The result is pretty, often ingenious and cost-effective ideas for craft projects that even small children can enjoy making.
With Eliza Muldoon as your guide you can fashion a headband or apron, create skirts and shoe adornments, make bags, tool belts, toys and unique art. Each project is short enough to keep a toddler’s attention (roughly 30 minutes). “As a youngster I found myself compulsively crafting. I didn’t call it crafting then, I just called it making stuff... Relatively recently two things made me realise that I needed to start making stuff again. The first was having a gorgeous child, Lotte, and wanting her to have the same creative memories and basic skills as I did. The second was lecturing on the extensive benefits of art-making for our wellbeing and realising that this was an important part of my wellbeing that I had neglected. All of this led to the development of Sunday Crafternoons,” Eliza Muldoon explains.
My favourite ideas include felt food, peg dolls and golden gift tags, but if I was a mother to girls there are so many more wonderful and ingenious ideas. For purchase details visit http://www.allenandunwin.com/default.aspx?page=94&book=9781742378657
Author Fiona Higgins
ISBN 978 1 74237 986 9
This is an utterly engrossing tale penned by a first-time Australian author on the subject of first-born babies, bonding between mothers, and unforeseen tragedy. So expertly handled was the character development and seamless narrative which flows so easily towards the unexpected climax, that I found it difficult to put down this novel. It features six women – all but one are white and fairly privileged, living in a Sydney water-side suburb. All are struggling with the many and varied changes wrought by motherhood. Taboos are gently explored by Higgins, as well as much of what goes unspoken by mothers of their multitude of challenges. The depths of postnatal depression, horrific birthing damage to a woman’s body – as well as her sense of self and fractured normality – the exhausting small daily dramas of living with a high-demand toddler, single motherhood, and a multitude of other convincing stories are told here. My favourite was Made (Maa-day), a gentle young Balinese woman whose child has a facial defect. Her courage, optimism and good sense contrasts bluntly with the Australian mothers, who are at times caught up in juggling conflicting demands such as work, blended families, illness or money worries. Each chapter brings us closer to one of these women as we see the world through their eyes, a feat achieved with deceptive ease. Each story is told with a natural intimacy so that we see the real life of each mother – the self that is never shown to the mothers’ group. My only criticism of this masterful debut novel is the glorification of the role of the mothers’ group itself; not all mothers are lucky enough to find the support, camaraderie and friendship depicted here. It would have also been a pleasant surprise to find more of a normal diversity of body shape depicted here, instead of the usual yummy-mummies who bounce back to their pre-pregnancy slimness. However, I thoroughly enjoyed all the twists and turns in a way that, perhaps, only a mother can. Intensely moving and a top read.
Author Julie Medlin, Ph.D. and Steven, Knauts, Ph.D
The subject matter of this important book will often strike fear into the heart of any parent. It is a difficult and sometimes traumatic book to read, but nevertheless, it is critical that parents explore this emotionally fraught and complex subject. Technology such as the internet and web-connected mobile phones have undoubtedly contributed to a rise in sexual dangers for our children if only through ready access to sexual and pornographic material at the touch of a screen or keypad. “Parents today are faced with the challenge of trying to protect their children from sexual dangers all around us. These dangers include Internet pornography and sexual predators both online and in person, as well as other children who are acting out sexually. It takes skillful, proactive parenting to protect children from sexual dangers while allowing them to develop a normal, healthy sexuality. Without such proactive parenting, children can be exposed to pornography and sexual abuse, which can lead to sexual, emotional, and behavioral problems that can last a lifetime,” say the authors of this book, who have 30 years of clinical experience as specialist psychologists behind them. Described as a resource for parents (and professionals who work with children), the book outlines clear, easy steps to protect children and teens, both online and in the community. The website supporting this book is also an invaluable resource, with a must-read page Tough Topics with articles about talking to other parents about parental controls, and talking to your child about the internet and its dangers. Parents can also use the Parent Checklist page for more detailed information. Author, Julie Medlin explained to me that “many parents know that children can access porn on the internet, but few parents actually take steps to install parental controls on their computers and other internet-accessible devices. The same seems to be true with sexual abuse, as many parents continue to allow their children to be in high-risk situations, without thinking of the potential consequences. Many parents also seem to assume that abuse is something that can happen to other families, but not their own. Given this, we were hoping that real examples would bring home the message that parents need to take this seriously and take action, just as you did after reading it!” Avoiding Sexual Dangers covers topics such as the pervasiveness of sexualised images aimed at children, sexual behaviour in children including what is normal and ‘red flags’, the effects of pornography on children, and various topics related to sexual abuse. There are many helpful checklists and practical ‘how to’ sections in the book. Personally, I found the inclusion of real case studies deeply disturbing, however the reader can still skip these and gain important and empowering information.
Author Edited by Irma Gold
Publisher Mostly for Mothers (Wombat Books)
Giving voice to an ‘unspeakable subject’, this collection of stories is extremely moving and often eloquent. It is a worthy anthology for readers who have experienced miscarriage (apparently as many as one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage) and readers interested in exploring topics related to motherhood. Edited by Canberra writer and editor, Irma Gold, the collection documents the stories of 22 women who share their personal journeys of pain, grief, confusion and love for their lost babies. “Women often grieve alone, mourning a child they have never met but whose future they have already imagined,” the publisher says in the promo blurb, a fact echoed in many of the stories where the theme of our collective lack of recognition of the emotional terrain of miscarriage is common. Many of the stories here are achingly beautiful and reading the short bios is often a sad and telling insight into just how many of our ‘sisters’ suffer in silence after losing a baby. Irma Gold says that “together, we honour all those babies we have lost, and all the women who carried them,” and I salute her. One story is reproduced here on Parenting Express A perfect square. Buy the book direct from the publisher via email@example.com or www.mostlyformothers.com.
Author Shafali Tsabary, PhD
Publisher Namaste Publishing, Canada
“Because this parenting journey is one of extremes, it can bring out the best and worst in us.”
It’s rare that a book comes along that really ‘speaks to you’ – a book that matches your values, beliefs and parenting ideals. This may well be such a book for me – it resonated on a profound level. Written by a clinical psychologist from New York and with a preface from His Holiness the Dalai Lama and acclaim from Eckhart Tolle, it comes highly recommended and does not disappoint. The core of Dr Tsabary’s argument is that the true role of parents is to learn alongside their children (“parenting consciously isn’t about getting it right all the time, but about evolving together”); that children have the potential to spark a deep ‘soul searching’, leading to a transformation in parents. Her opening line speaks volumes: “To parent perfectly is a mirage. There is no ideal parent and no ideal child.” She gently reminds us that we aren’t raising a ‘mini-me’, but a “spirit throbbing with its own signature”. To really give our children the best chance for success and happiness, argues Tsabary, we must gaze upon our own unresolved needs, unmet expectations and frustrated dreams. “Only through awareness can the cycle of pain that swirls in families end...To shift to a more effective way of relating to children, we must be willing to face and resolve issues in ourselves that stem from the way we were parented.” The author covers a lot of ground here – from the initial shock of parenting a baby and toddler, to getting it right in the school years (“Your child belongs to you less now than they ever did – they are growing and need the space to do so, which requires you to retreat from your dominance and emerge in kinship”), and resisting the urge to control in the teen years. There are so many wise words in this book, I’m sure it will become one that I return to for inspiration again and again on my parenting journey. The book is available via Amazon or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, website www.namastepublishing.com.
“In all kinds of ways – if we are willing – our children take us into places in our heart we didn’t know existed.”
Author Sharon Kernot
Publisher Ginninderra Press, Australia
ISBN 978 1 74027 644 3
Many of these reflective and well crafted poems have been published on Parenting Express over the years, painting an unflinchingly candid account of the life of a mother and more. Described as an “honest disclosure of domestic life where sorrow, loss and separation are interwoven with love, humour and an over-riding celebration of life”, the poems tell many an intriguing story if read from start to finish. They are alternately moving, funny, poignant and thought-provoking and most of all, highly recommended, to readers who enjoy strong, clever writing about subjects that really matter but which are so often overlooked. Read some of Sharon’s work here. Washday Pockets is available by contacting the author at www.sharonkernot.com
Author Michael Grose
Publisher Bantam/Random House
ISBN 978 174166 948 0
Michael Grose’s key point is that kids need strong, confident leadership from their parents. He’s against over-protection of children – wrapping them in cotton wool – and argues persuasively that this has resulted in a new generation of “overanxious children, ill-equipped with the skills to recover quickly from challenging situations or setbacks.”
Thriving is aimed at parents of children aged 3-12 and I found it engaging and straightforward. Grose’s ‘no nonsense’ approach is practical, right down to the chapter structure and suggestions or advice on which the entire book is based. His ‘thriving’ trilogy encompasses confidence, character and resilience. These should be our parenting goals, argues Grose, and he mounts a strong and successful case for why these aims matter so much in our complex modern world.
The book is packed with helpful, meaty suggestions – it’s certainly not lightweight and it’s a book I’ll come back to more than once. I particularly like Grose’s approach to building ‘scaffolds to independence’ for children; his suggestions for the type of positive messages we can actively choose to convey; his thorough and empathic approach to helping anxious kids (or parents!); and his chapter on ‘dealing with tough nuts and tricky situations’ is just GOLD.
For details on the book and helpful emails about parenting issues, visit www.parentingideas.com.au.
Author Maggie Dent
Publisher Pennington Publications
ISBN 978 0 9758456 1 5
According to Maggie Dent, author of numerous books on topics related to raising children, “real children need real experiences with real people to grow up healthy.” I couldn’t agree more. Reading this engrossing book of Maggie’s was an affirming and reassuring experience. It explores the ten essential building blocks that can help parents ensure that their children grow healthy, with skills that help them manage living in our modern world and encourage them to become worthwhile adults. The book is contemplative, wise and thought-provoking, raising many concerns about today’s lifestyle issues, tempered by Maggie’s comment that “the reality is that parenting now is harder that it has ever been before.” I appreciate the inspiring quotes throughout and the parenting tips at the end of each section. The chapter that most resonates – although I found myself heartily agreeing with pretty much everything – was the chapter on play and its vital importance to children: “The parts of the brain that regulate emotion and attitudes to human relations require human contact to develop. Only real interactions build emotional competencies. These cannot be learned by watching a screen.” Real kids is available from Maggie’s website www.maggiedent.com or good book stores for AU$27.50.
Excerpt “When I ask a parent group what play they experienced as a child and what they had really loved, an interesting thing happens. These parents do not mention expensive toys or indoor games. The things they had loved as kids were building cubbies, riding bikes (often without helmets, gears or brakes), catching tadpoles, building billy carts, climbing trees, and hours of chasey, hide-and-seek and spot-light.”
Author Sally Thibault
Publisher Wise Mothers Publishing
ISBN 978 0 9807374 00
David’s Gift is a very personal story told from a mother’s perspective of her son’s journey with Asperger’s Syndrome. Sally tells a moving and engaging story of the long struggle and its impact on her family. Her exploration of the day-to-day struggles is thought provoking for any parent and many of the occasions described resonated with me for a long time. There are lessons here for any parent, not only those with children within the autism spectrum. The back cover blurb says that “it’s a love story about a son and a family and a very special mother who helped David take his first steps towards a less fearful, more connected life.” Now David is a young adult in his twenties and, with the benefit of hindsight, Sally is able to recount many anecdotes and conversations and bring to life the journey of David’s life from babyhood until now. “From the time David was two years old we knew he was different to other people,” she opens. She details these differences and, through the course of the narrative, we come to understand what living with Aspergers is like for David and his family. There are challenging times of course, but somehow what shines through is the remarkable resilience of David and his family, his mother’s overwhelming love for him and her determination to do her absolute best for him. Visit www.davidsgift.com.au for further details.
Author Adrienne Rich
ISBN 0 86068 031 2
Radical in its time, this ground-breaking book still packs a punch almost 30 years later. I got my copy on the internet (www.Abebooks.com) for a song, after hearing the first paragraph (see below) on a radio program. It’s described as “political, scholarly and passionate” and “fierce, urgent and rare”. It lies somewhere between a memoir and a sociological text exploring the role of woman as mother throughout history. It’s disappointing that much of the book still rings true despite the ‘progress’ of feminism in the past three decades. This book touched my heart and mind in a way that no other book on the subject of motherhood has done, particularly in its exploration of the ‘darker side’ of motherhood, and of the relationship between mothers and sons, and mothers and daughters. An amazing book that every mother should read.
Excerpt “All human life on this planet is born of woman. The one unifying, incontrovertible experience shared by all women and men is that months-long period we spent unfolding inside a woman’s body. Because young humans remain dependent upon nurture for a much longer period than other mammals, and because of the division of labour long established in human groups, where the women not only bear and suckle but are assigned almost total responsibility for children, most of us first know both love and disappointment, power and tenderness, in the person of a woman.”
Author Anne Manne
Publisher Allen & Unwin (Australia)
ISBN 1 74114 379 9
At its heart, this engaging and meticulously researched book by an Australian social commentator and writer searches for solutions to the divisive and controversial issues around caring for children: the choices we make about work, lifestyle and reproduction. Anne Manne’s rigorous and unstinting questioning of early institutionalised child care, and of our society’s responsibility to care for its children, needs to be heard. Elegantly written without the dehumanising language of academia, Motherhood never preaches or lectures, but quietly and persistently insists that there is a better way to support parents in raising children, our society’s greatest asset. At a time when most western countries are facing a crisis of declining birth rates and many parents are forced to work longer hours than ever before, this is a vitally important book for all carers of children to read. Undoubtedly one of the most confronting, profound and inspiring books I have ever read.
Excerpt: “We need not only to make work more flexible, releasing women from juggling full-time work with babies and toddlers, but also to redistribute working time across the life cycle. Reconceptualising a working life over a longer time frame, rather than cramming everything into the peak reproductive years, will have profound – and beneficial – implications for women.”
Author Cherie Stein
Publisher Zeus, Australia
This comprehensive book is a helpful ‘one-stop-shop’ of a guide to everything you might need to know about child development, nutrition, common illnesses and behaviour management. Written by a long-term early childhood educator, the book is easy to read and set out plainly in clear sections. I particularly liked the ideas for stimulating age-appropriate activities and the emphasis on the vital importance and creative play.
Author Rachel Power
Publisher Red Dog Books, Australia
ISBN 978 174203501-7
“Mothering is such a prosaic term in our culture that it functions as a disguise for the true intensity of the experience.” In her opening chapter, journalist and editor (and mother) Rachel Power eloquently and candidly echoes the feelings, anxieties and tensions I have grappled with since my elder son was born in 2001. This book is a revelation in many ways, and a delight to read the revealing and thought-provoking interviews with so many artist-mothers – writers, musicians, actors, filmmakers, dancers, illustrators and photographers – 26 women in all who talk openly about the tough times and the joyful times of motherhood; its impact on their careers, their relationships, and their art. Power’s chapter – part memoir and part essay – is a carefully considered and meticulously researched tour de force on a subject she is clearly passionate about, and her voice remains a gentle, guiding force throughout the 25 chapters. More than five years in the making, this book needed to be written and poses valuable questions for the present and the future: Do women still confront the attitude that a dedicated artist will forsake her children for her career? And if she chooses to have children, how does she balance the demands of family life with her artistic life?
Author Edited by Jane Turner Goldsmith
Publisher Wakefield Press
ISBN 978 1 86254 768 1
Although I am the mother of two naturally conceived children of my own blood, I found this book utterly riveting and at times, extremely moving. The candour and humour of the writers is compelling and engaging, and together the stories tell a tale of thwarted but intense desire for children, the frustrations of the complicated journey of adopting a child, and the self-sacrifice involved along the way. As readers, we share the writers’ hopes and doubts as they make a decision to adopt a child (and in many cases, stop the debilitating cycle of IVF); their elation and apprehension when after travelling across the world, they finally meet their child and return home to Australia with them. The emptiness of infertility and feelings of failure are palpable – “I felt alone, even though I knew I was not. Infertility knows no logic.” (Wendy M Anderson, contributor) Some stories here date back to the 1960s and 70s and include one story of Aboriginal adoption and adopting children with special needs. Some are accounts of adoption from Korea, India, Ethiopia, China and Romania. In each case, the weight of the decision to adopt (particularly the issues of separating their child from its birth culture) and the parents’ resilience in pursuing their dream is immense. As a reader, I appreciated the words written by the adoptive child at the end of many chapters.
Author Jonquil Graham
Publisher Cape Catley Ltd, New Zealand
A riveting and heart-warming personal account of the author, Jonquil Graham’s parenting journey over a couple of decades of raising nine children on a peaceful kiwifruit farm in New Zealand. The chapters on adopting from Romania were harrowing and distressing (one of these chapters is reproduced here) but Graham’s perseverance and strength resulted in the blessing of twins, a welcome addition to her family back home. Time after time I found myself in awe of her ability to put the needs of her children first, to persist with her dream against incredible odds, and to find in her heart the resources to love and cherish her lucky adopted children – all of whom were saved from lives of neglect and poverty. This is a gripping and sometimes funny story that brings each family member to life, (particularly her husband who is lovingly painted as a solid, humourous and wonderfully supportive life partner). I also learnt a lot from the author’s pragmatic, light-hearted and generous approach to life and raising kids. An inspiring book for anyone interested in children, families or adopting.
Author Dr John Irvine and John Stewart
Publisher Finch, Australia
Written by the well known educational psychologist Dr John Irvine and the Head of a junior school, John Stewart, this easy-to-read and practical guide is designed to assist parents develop their children’s attitudes, values and good habits to help them become happy and effective learners. As a ‘school novice’ (ie, my eldest child only started school in 2008), I found this book to be especially helpful and generally informative to guide me forward into this next stage. It covers chapters on readiness; special needs; and trouble-shooting; as well as thriving – as a learner; in the classroom; and in the playground. Like other Finch titles, I love the ‘true stories’ scattered throughout and the ‘top tips – what you can do’. A lot of sensible and grounded advice is also provided by teachers, such as: “Many parents fall into the trap of comparing their child to others in the class. Don’t! Praise your child’s individual efforts even if they might not be as good as you would like. Children start school at different developmental stages.”
Author Darren Groth
Publisher Interactive Press, Australia
While not a ‘parenting book’, this novella is a very funny read for pregnant women or their partners. Penned by expatriate Australian, Darren Groth, it tells the story through amusing banter and fly-on-the-wall insights of a father-to-be who is suddenly and mysteriously faced with unexplained email communication from his as yet unborn son. Described by the author as a ‘contemporary comic fable about chasing dreams, confronting loss and discovering what’s most important in life’ the book is sure to appeal especially to men grappling with the concept of fatherhood for the first time. Read an excerpt here on Parenting Express or buy the book through Amazon.
Author Andrew Fuller
Publisher Finch Publishing
As a parent of a ‘tricky kid’ a.k.a. ‘difficult’, ‘willful’, ‘spirited’, ‘intense’ and all the other names our society gives children who don’t conform, I have found this book to be inspiring, engaging and totally relevant. Like the legendary Raising your spirited child by Mary Sheedy Kurkinka, this book ‘speaks volumes to me’ and makes me realise I am not alone in the challenges I face on a daily basis. Written for parents of young children to teens, Tricky Kids is down-to-earth and practical, with a handy section for teachers at the back. Andrew Fuller brings his 20+ years of experience as a clinical psychologist and family therapist to a ‘tricky’ subject that often has hackles raised at the outset – but he approaches his subject with good sense and good humour. Read the book’s introduction on this website.
There is very good research that tells us that the small rituals that we put into family life are a powerful positive force. They build goodwill and routine and, with tricky children, routines and rituals are good. The rituals don’t need to be expensive, in fact the best ones cost very little or nothing... A ritual is something you do regularly as a family that does not depend on how the children are behaving.
Author Heather Taylor Johnson
Publisher Picaro Press (Australia)
ISBN 978 1 920957 46 9
Parenting Express poet, Heather Taylor Johnson has released this thoughtful and often moving collection of poems that celebrate birth, living and dying. In many of her poems, Taylor Johnson captures a fresh sense of the every day, and we glimpse a window into her life as a writer/mother across two continents. Australian poet, Thomas Shapcott said of this collection, “there is a relaxed, anecdotal feel to these poems... (they) are sensuous, full of precise recall and leave the reader in a thoroughly celebrative mood.” Exit Wounds is available from poetry-friendly bookshops in Australia or through Picaro Press. Read one of Heather’s poems from this collection here.
Author Sarah James
Publisher Lothian Books (Australia)
ISBN 0 7344 0826 9
If you’re pregnant and wondering what comes next, this is the book for you. If you’ve just given birth and are searching for an honest account of what you’ve just experienced, this is the book for you. If you love reading about the miracle of birth written in a no-nonsense, practical style – this is the book for you too. Written by an Australian mother of four and an experienced midwife, ‘Midwife Wisdom, Mother Love’ offers valuable insights gained from both James’ professional and personal life. There are many funny moments and the author’s style is personable and down-to-earth. I most enjoyed the candid, detailed and sometimes disturbing memoirs about each of her own very different births. Read the story of Noah’s birth here on Parenting Express.
Excerpt: “My sister-in-law gave birth to her first child eight years before we had children. Her birth was fast and easy. She told me the story with great enthusiasm. She had no pain relief and pushed the baby out on all fours. She smiled as she said, “it was the best orgasm of my life!” I smiled back, but I had no idea what she was talking about.
Author Joanne Fedler
Publisher Allen & Unwin (Australia)
ISBN 1 74114 715 8
The premise of this book is what happens when eight very different women get together for a sleepover with no husbands or kids around. It’s a true account written by a writer and mother, with names and some personal details changed for privacy reasons. At times it’s funny, poignant, brutally honest and utterly judgemental, a little like reading the author’s diary. There is much here to illicit the ‘thank god I’m not alone in feeling this’ factor and some beautiful language thrown in to boot. All in all, a fabulous read and a book that provides food for thought as well as entertainment.
Excerpt: "Motherhood is not a trifle. It is the ultimate matrix - between life and death. When all the romance and glory is stripped away, it is a wasteland with no consolations for the errors, mishaps and sins we unwittingly commit in the juggle between 'doing the best we can' for those we have brought to life, and staying alive ourselves."
Author Dr Vicky Flory
Publisher Finch (Australia)
ISBN 1 876451 65 3
This book is my second most highly recommended one (‘Kids are worth it’ comes first, see below) and its packed with helpful and illuminating material. Like ‘KAWI’, this book is very respectful of children but it differs in that it focuses on the child’s perspective and our role as parents to raise our children to be emotionally healthy and secure. I like the way it offers practical examples and suggestions about how to go about the complex and emotionally-fraught business of parenting. Seek it out!
Author Barbara Coloroso
Publisher Somerville House Books/Lothian
ISBN 0 85091 647 X
This is my most widely recommended book and one I discovered on my local library’s ‘unwanted stock’ table for $1! It was the best dollar I ever spent and I regularly re-visit this wise and thoughtful book, which appeals to parents with children of all ages. This book is as valuable for its insight into our own backgrounds as it is as a ‘how-to’ text about raising the next generation. I love its honesty, goodwill, non-preaching tone (despite Barbara’s background in theology) and good sense. Well worth surfing the net to find a copy – my second one only cost me US$2.
Author Lawrence J Cohen
Publisher Ballantine (USA)
ISBN 0 345 44286 5
An excellent book written by a PhD psychologist, described as a “magical and inspiring read”. Cohen’s approach fits with the ‘Listening’ approach pioneered by Patty Wipfler of the Parents Leadership Institute (check out web links on the right), and is fascinating, radical and totally worth consulting for all those everyday challenges that raising young (and teenage) children bring. This book is packed with wisdom, respect and a real passion for positive and connected parenting – so that the next generation of children can have the best chance of being happy, emotionally healthy people.
Author Kaz Cooke
ISBN 0 670 04007 X
An Australian tome of some 770 pages which is hilarious, informative and essential reading for today’s parents. Written by a comedian/writer, Kaz Cooke is also the author of the highly recommended ‘Up the Duff’. Kid Wrangling takes some stamina to get through, but is thoroughly researched and separated into accessible ‘chunks’, so you can read about, say pre-schoolers, if that’s what interests you right now. I plan to devour it from cover to cover when I somehow manage to find the time!
Author Geraldine Moore
Publisher Hybrid Publishers
ISBN 1 876462 37 X
The amazing Anne Deveson wrote that this book covers an important and controversial subject extremely well, and I have to agree with her. Melbourne mother, teacher and author, Geraldine Moore, tells a valuable, insightful and engrossing story of raising her two ADHD boys in the 1980s and 1990s in Australia. Her confusion and anxiety about the behaviour of her young boys and their differences from other children were palpable. It was difficult to believe that so many 'professionals' - teachers and medical workers - could be so blunt, unhelpful and unsympathetic. Geraldine’s tenacity and self-belief were admirable and this story documents her determination to find answers and solutions to the condition that is now known as ADHD. This book has lots of detail for those seeking more than a fascinating read and is highly recommended if you suspect your child of ADHD behaviours. Visit Geraldine’s website for purchasing details or ask your local bookshop to stock it.
Author Steve Biddulph
Publisher Finch (Australia)
ISBN 0 646 31418 1
A seminal book that I read when my first baby boy was only two days old – needless to say everything made me cry then and this book certainly did! It’s such a thought-provoking subject that a book like this should be read annually – or at least once. Steve (and his wife) have also written other books on parenting like ‘The secret of happy children’ and ‘Manhood’, which I haven’t got around to reading yet, but I have read Steve’s ‘Stories of Manhood’ – an interesting but somewhat superficial collection that could have delved a lot deeper.
Author Debra Adelaide (Editor)
Publisher Random House Australia
ISBN 0 09 183131 8
An Australian collection of heartfelt and often beautifully written memoirs about babies and children. Several of the stories are brave, poignant and downright gut-wrenching. A beautiful book; its only downside is that there are no male authors.
Author Debra Adelaide (Editor)
Publisher Random House Australia
ISBN 0 09 183526 7
An Australian sequel to ‘Motherlove’ this is a collection explores, mainly through fiction and memoir, the other side of the coin: how it feels when the time comes to step back from the mothering role. I confess that I don’t have the courage or stamina to read this yet – but when the time is right, I will.
Author Jill Dawson and Margo Daly (Editors)
ISBN 0 7475 5823 X
Some big-name British and Australian authors contribute to this anthology of birth and baby fiction and memoirs and I like the fact that the list includes men such as Bernard Cohen, Peter Carey and Nick Hornby. Many touching and inspiring stories.
Author Susan Maushart
Publisher Random House Australia
ISBN 0 09 183622 0
An honest and, at times, very funny book written by a leading academic and writer. It explores the nature of the transformative experience of mothering and is good reading for expectant mothers as well as new ones. I loved the chapter on pregnancy and found resonance with much of the book.
Author Dr Thomas Verny with John Kelly
Publisher Sphere Books
ISBN 0 7221 8821 8
Probably the only place you’ll find this one is on the internet or in an op-shop (like I did, for 20 cents!). I found it fascinating reading while I was pregnant and despite its age, it provides real insight into the baby’s experience of gestation and birth.
Author Catherine Deveny
ISBN 0 7344 0046 2
Written by an Australian comedian, this book had great ‘yes!’ power when I was pregnant – I recall laughing slightly hysterically at much of it. It’s very Australian in content and will probably only appeal to women who are actually pregnant at the time.
Author Tim Bryant
Publisher Australian Broadcasting Corporation Books
ISBN 0 7333 1013 3
About the year in the life of a public servant who became a stay-at-home dad. It’s funny stuff and great to see the male perspective on this female-centric subject.
Author Erina Reddan
ISBN 0 7336 1198 2
The author interviewed nine women from diverse backgrounds and wove their stories of recent births into an engrossing narrative about the myriad of changes in a woman’s life after becoming a mother. Erina’s quote speaks volumes: “I was as unprepared for the utter bone-numbing exhaustion as I was for the profound, passionate longing I felt for my baby.” Author Debra Adelaide says of the book that it shows us the story of a mother and her relationship with her child is an infinite and dynamic one. Highly recommended reading.
Author Kate Figes
ISBN 0 14 025263 0
A thoughtful and thought-provoking book about the “terrors, exhaustion and passionate emotions of post-partum existence”, which proposes to ‘tell it as it really is’. It’s good reading for women who like to explore the implications of their new lives as parents.
Author Daniel Goleman
ISBN 0 7475 2830 6
Although not a parenting book, this is essential reading for anyone interested in self awareness. It has gripping content on raising children and providing guidance. It’s a meticulously researched book that shows how emotional intelligence can be nurtured and strengthened in us all. Highly recommended reading.
Author Pauline O’Brien
Publisher Antipodean Publishers
ISBN 0 207 137129
Although now out of print, this very personal, Australian book was written by a contributor to this site (see her piece in the Birth Stories section). It is fascinating reading for women who are new mothers now (Pauline’s births mentioned in the book were pre-1970) and offers a glimpse of what most women experienced in hospitals as well as advice about feeding your baby in the first months of life. You can read about how appallingly most women were treated by nursing staff in maternity hospitals and how the matron’s dog wandered the un-airconditioned wards (where several women had to share one bathroom!). It’s a shock for those of us who take access to our newborn babies for granted; in Pauline’s time, the babies were whisked away to the nursery and the mother was only allowed limited and very prescribed contact. Contact me if you’d like a copy as Pauline still has a few copies for sale at A$10 each including postage within Australia.
Every parent of a teenage boy knows there are certain conversations they must have with their son but often put them off or don’t have them at all. Top educator Dr Tim Hawkes offers practical, accessible ways to get them started.
I personally recommend these websites and am always keen to hear of exceptional sites for parents.