Book Shelf


Parenting book reviews

Book for wired families is more than a Web guide AWESOME INTERNET SITES FOR KIDS, by Sandra Antoniani and Friends, Ride the Wave Media, $14.99.

This family friendly Web guide reviews kid-safe sites in categories ranging from “animals” to “fun and games” to “virtual museums.” Each entry includes a description, an age rating and a “Smork Safe URL,” which is a shortcut Web address that will take you directly to the target site. This is particularly handy with some of the longer addresses. The reviews are simple and written in a tone that will be appreciated by parents and kids alike. The book uses a plus/minus (+/-) rating system that I found confusing at first. Sites for older kids are marked with a plus (+); sites for younger kids are marked with a minus (-).

Throughout the book you’ll find the computer character Smork. According to author Antoniani, Smork is an environmentalist who is interested in Internet safety, so the “left side” content is full of important messages for kids on these issues.

This “left side” content, across from the links and reviews, is what I enjoyed most about this book. You’ll find colorful illustrations, fun facts, quizzes and tips ranging from online safety to vitamins, all borrowed from sites included in the book. Many direct readers to related sites, creating a tighter connection between the book and the Web. For example, in the “animals” section you’ll find a list of “grosser than gross animal facts,” including this gem: “Tiny creatures inside the termite’s stomach help it digest wood. They also give the termite a lot of gas.”

The “community building” section includes an anecdote about a Chicago community health clinic that was in danger of shutting down until a group of 50 children organized a protest. It attracted enough media attention that lawmakers kept the clinic open. Other items include how to tell a rabbit from a hare, uses for nuclear materials, how to write ‘surf smart, stay safe’ in Morse code, and bios on famous people with disabilities.

The companion Web site,, allows parents and kids point and click access to the Web addresses from the book. It is possible to use the site without the book, but the book adds useful reviews that make for a better experience.

Possibly the most interesting aspect of the project is the fund-raising package. Schools interested in participating are provided with two free copies of the book for use at school, five SMORK posters, brochures and order forms for students, a template letter to send out with brochures, and a master order form. There are no upfront costs to schools for participation. Books are provided to schools for $8 each, with a below-retail suggested selling price of $12. The school pays for only books parents pre-order. Christopher Rettstatt


Diaper Diaries chock-full of postpartum laughs THE DIAPER DIARIES: THE POOP ON THE FIRST YEAR OF MOTHERHOOD, by Cynthia L. Copeland, Workman Publishing, 2003, $8.95.

When sleep deprivation has you walking into walls, your newly nursing nipples are raw and you are changing your 362nd diaper of the day, take a deep breath and give yourself a two-minute timeout to laugh.

Not finding a lot funny in those early postpartum weeks? Then you need a dose of Cynthia Copeland’s hilarious take on motherhood.

No postpartum stone is left unturned. Worried you will suck the baby’s brains out with the “nasal bulb syringe thingamajig?” Your concern is not completely unfounded, Copeland confides. Trying to make the circumcision decision? There are six things all 14-year-old boys want to have in common with all other 14-year-old boys and one of them is “the same cool wiener,” she asserts. Worried you’ll never get past the sleep-deprived, diaper-changing, constant-crying phase? Know that “when you are coping with the Glittery-Eye-Makeup-Portable-CD-Player phase, you will think back, misty-eyed on the Up-Every-Two-Hours-But-You-Got-To-Pick-Her-Friends phase.”

Like the Girlfriends’ Guide to Pregnancy by Vicki Iovine, The Diaper Diaries provides just what new parents need most: a hearty chuckle.

I laughed out loud as I read through this little gem, piquing my husband’s interest. When I finally turned the book over, he laughed his way through it. As he handed it back, he noted with a snort, “She doesn’t think much of dads, does she?”

Not true. There’s an entire section on helpful dads, stuffed with actual stories as told to the author by actual moms. For example: “After I’ve been up several nights in a row with the baby, my husband may offer to get up with her. But as soon as she starts crying, I wake him up and he’ll mumble, ‘I’m gonna wait and see if she just cries it out’ and then he promptly falls back to sleep.” And then there’s the dad who fell asleep on a plane with the baby on his lap and was awakened by the flight attendant because the baby had rolled off his lap and was under the seat. And the dad who complained how tired he was because his wife would disturb him when she got up to tend the baby. OK. So maybe dads do take it on the chin. But sometimes that’s just where they deserve it.

I’m putting this on my list of Approved Baby Shower Presents. And I’m keeping a copy for myself. I may not need the guide to baby poop anymore, but I think the house-cleaning guide will continue to come in handy. Go for the General Impression of Relative Tidiness, Copeland says. Determine which door you will use to admit the guests, and the route you will use to guide them to which room and then clean only along the Designated Route.

Now that’s advice I like. Cindy Richards


Keep kids reading with list of great books THE BEST CHILDREN’S LITERATURE: A PARENT’S GUIDE, by Ellen Trachtenberg, Parent’s Guide Press, $17.95.

Bookworms usually don’t just happen. They are encouraged to read, see adult family members reading and are surrounded by good literature.

The problem for parents is knowing just what constitutes good children’s literature. Parents can receive help from many sources for selection of materials. Besides librarians and book stores, this new guide is a wonderful resource.

The list of more than 1,000 books has been divided into six age-appropriate categories: infant/toddler, picture, story, easy, nonfiction and fiction. Each entry includes intended age, cost, an annotation and other outstanding books by the same author. This last reference I find very helpful. After reading a great book, I want to know what else that author wrote. Author Trachtenberg includes all the resources in one, easy-to-use format, along with appropriate indexes by title and by author.

I also like that she lists all of the Newbery and Caldecott award books through 2002. From this grand list, the 31 best of the best have been selected and labeled Parent’s Guide Choice Award Winners. The list also is posted at, albeit without the annotations and age levels.

This book is not for parents only. If I were still teaching, I would certainly have a copy of the book available to help me build the library collection.

I tried hard to find authors I like that might have been omitted. I did find a couple I probably would have included, but everyone has their own opinions.

Trachtenberg took on a huge job and has a book that is very helpful for parents as well as teachers and librarians. I look forward to using this book and keeping it handy. When those grandkids call and say “Grandma, what should I read next?” I’ll have a ready answer.

Another good resource for children’s literature is Jim Trelese’s Read Aloud Handbook, 5th Edition, published in 2001. With the turn of the century, lists were published with the 100 best of everything including children’s books. All of these are valuable resources in selecting material to read to children.

Since there is so much terrific new children’s literature published each year, these books often are out of date as soon as they are published. But both Trachtenberg and Trelese have put together lists that include many favorites that will endure from one generation to another. Judy Belanger

Kids Eat Chicago

Copyright 2017 Wednesday Journal Inc. All rights reserved. Chicago web development by liQuidprint