Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman

I'm not one of those parents to go around boasting about my technique and how wonderful my daughter is. Like all kids, she's only wonderful some of the time and the jury is definitely still out on how much my parenting technique contributes to this. I do have opinions though based on what's worked for me but I"m not going to share those here either. You need to make up your own mind as a parent. With this little disclaimer in place, please don't take my review of this book as a full-fledged endorsement of any one parenting style or a condemnation of any other. Whew.

I really like Bringing Up Bebe for the simple reason that, no matter the specific parenting topic being discussed the book reminded me I don't have to be a neurotic mother to raise a happy, well-adjusted child. French parenting is all about finding the calmer route to parenting, maintaining a sense of self from within that mommy role, and really striving toward building a child's confidence and sense of self. It was refreshing to read about simple ways to get to these goals which mostly made a lot of sense to me.

As a mom with a 3 1/2 year-old and another baby on the way in a few months, the first part of this book was a great refresher into the new baby parenting challenges which I think I've blocked from memory. I especially liked the French attitude of getting to know your child even in infancy - talking to them from day 1, pausing to really listen and understand their needs, etc. Of course, my mind was continually blown away by the fact that French children sleep through the night very quickly (on average) and don't snack continually throughout the day. And, France's state programs to support child care and provide reasonable insurance to pregnant women is staggeringly better than anything dreamed up in the U.S. But, I definitely could never go all French when parenting if I suddenly needed to.

What's great about Bebe is that it isn't a parenting manual. You're not being told to do anything. It's more of an anthropological review of French parenting with one women reacting and implementing aspects of the style then sharing her own impressions. It's very passive so there's no pressure to alter your parenting style but rather just an opportunity to enjoy reading a parenting book (for once.) The highlights for me where the focus on strengthening and encouraging autonomy in children - a value I rank highly in general - as well as the calmer approach to parenting which I'm always reminding myself to attempt.

So, recommending this read is a little difficult. It's really interesting and well-written for any mom (or dad) looking to gain some insight into parenting techniques outside of our own little bubble, but it's not an instruction manual and you won't agree with everything that's presented in here. It's best read as a memoir consisting of a well-researched recollection of a woman's entry into motherhood while living abroad. I do think it's a more enjoyable read once you've already had a child so you can reflect on the parenting you've done so far and connect more with the story in general. I really like that it has helped me starting thinking ahead as well to when I'll be parenting a newborn once again.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

Needing a break from all my 2013 rereads, I decided to revisit the world of Percy Jackson and start Riordan's second series about the demigods that live among us. This series, set in the same world, introduces us to a whole other set of demigods - those sired from the gods while in their Roman incarnation. Therefore we meet Jason who is the son of Jupiter rather than Zeus. Riordan does a good job of explaining how the gods are all the same but were given different names to suit different aspects of themselves and how the gods can exist in multiple forms at once.

Jason has no memory of his childhood and becomes conscious on a bus heading toward the Grand Canyon. He's a teenager. His two close friends, Piper and Leo, know who he is and have memories of him, but Jason is clueless. He's given about an hour to ponder all he's forgotten before the whole busload of children are attacked by monsters. It's a rough introduction for Jason, Leo, and Piper, who all turn out to be demigods, into the world of mythology. They end up at Camp Halfblood and meet Annabeth. She's pretty absent from this book since she's on her own mission to find Percy who's strangely gone missing. 

A new prophecy is revealed foretelling the end of world and how seven demigods will be chosen to work together to prevent it. With three assembled already, Jason, Leo, and Piper set off on a quest to rescue Hera, who has been kidnapped by giants. The whole plot of the series unfolds as they quest to find Hera who of course is in California, the seat of all evil for Riordan (not really sure why,) things are looking pretty interesting for the rest of the books. What's different about this series already is the human connection. In Percy's series, you felt that everyone was connected through a common cause automatically, but for Jason's story line, it's not that easy. Not only are the demigods and gods going to have to work together (and the gods hate that,) but two groups of kids who didn't even know each other existed will have to figure out how to team up successfully, overcoming centuries of inherent animosity. It sounds like it's going to be interesting.

Conflicting with the interesting plot though are the new characters. I'm not sure I like them all. There's almost too much insecurity between them which I assume will improve, but for now. Jason is insecure because of his lack of memory, Piper just a teenage girl who second-guesses a little too much, and Leo has issues in his past keeping him doubt of his abilities. I know they'll grow because that's what Riordan characters do, but it's almost like they started at more of a deficit than I expected.

I'm not dying to get into the second book in this series the way I was with Percy's books, but I will eventually read it These books are a fun break from heavier reads and I really do like the world Riordan has created for them. It's fun YA fiction that features an ensemble cast rather than a single strong female battling her way through dystopia, and that's a nice change too.