Gender differences: What’s up with that? BOY V. GIRL?: HOW GENDER SHAPES WHO WE ARE, WHAT WE WANT, AND HOW WE GET ALONG, by George Abrahams and Sheila Ahlbrand, Free Spirit Publishing, $14.95.

Our home is female. It’s obvious by the television channels—Style and HGTV—we watch and the coffee table with Delia’s catalogs and American Girl magazines.

It is no wonder my husband often retreats to the basement for a Clint Eastwood movie or a hockey game, while we shrug, questioning the attraction.

Are there differences in gender? You bet. But the more we know and appreciate the differences as strengths, the fewer the misunderstandings.

George Abrahams and Sheila Ahlbrand have made a substantial contribution to this cause with their book. Intended for young people, but enlightening for adults, the book is based on a survey of almost 2,000 kids from ages 10-17 about real and perceived gender differences. The authors have used the rich survey results to add authentic voices to the information on gender roles, stereotypes, puberty, family roles, gender in the classroom and the playing field, media messages and social life. The result is an easily readable and fun exploration of what gender really means.

The book is divided into eight chapters, each dealing with a specific aspect of a young person’s life, and each beginning with quotes from the survey. There is solid information here about how gender roles have changed over the years. The authors also address what to do if discrimination or harassment is suspected.

They also provide thought-provoking questions to consider. Each chapter ends with a bibliography of additional print and Web resources. Some also include quizzes or activities, such as a family tree where the reader fills in what they learned about gender roles from the men and women in their families—something that would be very interesting for parents to consider.

One of the best sections of the book is the chapter on media, which looks at the gender messages magazines, movies, music and TV send out. The authors offer 10 tips for becoming media-savvy, such as that readers turn on their “reality meter” when watching TV or movies, look for stereotypes, recognize good gender messages and notice their feelings when viewing, reading or listening to something questionable.

“Boy v. Girl” celebrates the gender differences with the message that different is equal and great. The authors have done an exceptional job of taking a touchy subject and making it appealing to children and adults alike.

Barbara Abromitis


Doulas can ease the stress of giving birth THE DOULA BOOK: HOW A TRAINED LABOR COMPANION CAN HELP YOU HAVE A SHORTER, EASIER AND HEALTHIER BIRTH, by Marshall H. Klaus, M.D., John H. Kennell, M.D., and Phyllis H. Klaus, C.S.W., M.F.T., Perseus Publishing, $19.

Are you or someone you know expecting a baby? Then, think about using a doula and think about this book, which explains why doulas are important for parents. Doula is a Greek word meaning “woman caregiver.” These women are trained to assist in childbirth while providing a calm, supportive and constant presence to the birth process. A doula works with both parents before, during and after childbirth.

Klaus, Kennell and Klaus discuss the importance of support during labor and the immediate and lasting benefits on the birth experience. They describe a doula’s many roles, which include helping to reduce pain, stress and anxiety; providing continual support for the family; and being a source of information postpartum. The authors cite many studies showing the obstetric benefits of doula care, including lower cesarean rates and shorter labors. Some studies even show increased mother-infant bonding and higher breast feeding success as a result of a doula.

Doulas meet with families a couple of months before birth to begin building relationships. Doulas remain with the mother throughout the entire labor and birth experience. They develop a good sense of what families want so they can respond appropriately during labor. For example, some women do not like to be touched, while others benefit from a shoulder or back massage. A doula has taken time to get to know the mother to provide the care and comfort she needs. If the father is taking an active role in comforting the mother, the doula can make suggestions of techniques to help smooth the labor process.

If a doula is known by hospital staff, she can be a wonderful bridge between families and staff. In the heat of the moment, a doula can be an objective voice of reason and an advocate, helping families with the type of birth they want. Midwives do much of this as well, but often have more than one laboring mother at a time. A doula works with one family and gives constant care to that family.

This book gives a good checklist of qualities to look for in a doula and suggests questions to ask when conducting an interview. The appendices have reliable information about how doulas are trained and techniques to try during pregnancy, labor, birth and breast feeding.

Having a baby is one of those times in life when getting support is really important. Think about a doula; she’s priceless.

Jean Bacom and Lisa Ginet


Brazelton’s back with advice for 3-6 set TOUCHPOINTS THREE TO SIX: YOUR CHILD’S EMOTIONAL AND BEHAVIORAL DEVELOPMENT, by T. Berry Brazelton, Perseus Publishing, $27.

First was T. Berry Brazelton’s 1992 “Touchpoints,” which covered emotional and behavioral development from birth to age 3. Now, comes the follow-up and we are thrilled.

We referred often to the first readable, sensible parenting book with our own infants and toddlers and in counseling other parents. Now we can continue to turn to Brazelton for help throughout the preschool years.

This new book is set up much like the previous one. Part One gives age profiles and developmental touchpoints and Part Two gives advice for particular challenges.

In the introduction, we meet four children—Billy, Minnie, Marcy and Tim—who illustrate developmental points in Part One, which has four chapters. Each begins with vignettes describing how the four act in typical situations. At 3, they are on the playground; at 4, a Halloween party; at 5, a birthday party; at 6, it is day one of first grade.

After providing readers with vivid pictures of typical development at the age in question, Brazelton and his co-authors describe the year’s touchpoints. Each chapter is divided into sections on temperament, learning, moral development, relationships, family building and independence and separation. The authors draw on research and their pediatric experience to explain how children develop new emotional and behavioral competencies in preschool. They outline how parents can support children as they grow, change and, inevitably, struggle, illustrating their points with more Billy, Minnie, Marcy and Tim references.

Part Two, “Facing Challenges As A Family,” is 33 short sections on a variety of topics, arranged alphabetically from “Adoption” to “Working and Caring.” Some, such as asthma and disabilities, are medical. Others, such as chores and swearing, deal with a family’s values. Still more, such as television and toys, deal with the broader culture. The authors discuss issues with clarity, warmth and a firm parental perspective. You won’t find a simple recipe to solve a problem, but you find good advice on what is worth worrying about and how to make a plan that works for your family.

Like its predecessor, this book is full of wisdom and warmth. It will help you understand your child and feel more comfortable as a parent. We predict most copies will become dog-eared!

Jean Bacom and Lisa Ginet

Kids Eat Chicago

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