September 2005

Going Back to Work: A Survival Guide for Comeback Moms, by Mary W. Quigley and Loretta E. Kaufman, St. Martin’s Griffin, 2004, $13.95.

Answering the question "What do I want to be when I grow up?" is especially challenging for mothers who have been out of the work force for several years.

As comeback moms themselves, the authors of this book know the right questions for stay-at-home moms to consider: When should I go back to work? How do I explain the gap in my employment history? How will I balance work, family and personal needs?

Mary W. Quigley and Loretta E. Kaufman don’t rely on pat answers. Rather, they provide useful information gleaned from interviews and surveys with more than 1,000 women. The book contains helpful resources and anecdotes to guide each mom to finding her own answers.

The early chapters are devoted to helping moms explore their interests and clarify whether they are looking for jobs or careers, incomes or identities. The book offers plenty of encouraging advice and provides numerous tips, such as relating a mom’s volunteer work in her child’s school to future paid employment.

The middle chapters address work options such as full time, job sharing and self-employment while providing real-life stories from women who have chosen each path.

The helpful voices of experience continue as the book moves into topics such as adjusting emotionally and logistically to new roles at work and home.

The comeback moms featured in the book share not only their successes, but their frustrations as well. Yes, as working moms they feel better about themselves, but some are also a little guilty or a bit frazzled. Yes, they are making money, but not as much as they made before having children. The pictures they paint may not always be rosy, but they are realistic.

Between the questions the authors pose, the encouragement they provide and the real-life experiences they share, this book is a useful resource for any mom who’s thinking about returning to the world of paid work. Those looking for still more encouragement might also appreciate Katherine Wyse Goldman’s 1996 book If You Can Raise Kids, You Can Get a Good Job. Kim Moldofsky


Tips for newbie dads on surviving the toddler years

Rookie Dad Tackles the Toddler, by Susan Fox, Pocket Books, 2005, $14.

You’re the guy who unintentionally frightened your friend’s toddlers with deep, guttural sounds from your throat, which you ridiculously thought were something they would find amusing. You’re the guy who twirled the kids around at birthday parties like broken windmills until you were wearing the birthday cake. Your sister once left you with her young child and you decided to let her 3-year-old eat his soup with his hands. You’re the guy who has always associated time-outs with football games.

OK, so you’re a rookie, a newbie, a fleeb. You have no clue, and now your own kid is a toddler. The baby months were a breeze: He slept, he ate, he went to the bathroom in his diaper. But times have changed. Now your actions have more relevance to your child.

There’s no question this book is for the greenest of dads. A few of the examples on how to introduce shapes and colors to your toddler are commonplace (playing with shoes, for example), but you’ll find specific explanations on why such methods are suggested. This helps convince you to give them a try. You want to develop your child’s learning abilities as best you can. You also want to keep your child out of harm’s way.

I was a bit leery of picking up a book written by a female about how dads can interact with their toddlers. But Susan Fox has superb credentials for this undertaking, and this licensed pediatric neurodevelopment therapist translates her techniques in a user-friendly format, short bursts of information meant to keep us focused. And lo and behold, it works.

Fox scours over language, behavior and safety methods, among others, with quick and insightful suggestions. Going to the doctor for a routine checkup can be a traumatic event for a toddler. Fox offers up role playing as a way to prevent temper tantrums before seeing the doctor. She recommends buying a plastic doctor’s kit at the toy store and asking your toddler to listen to your heart so the real stethoscope won’t seem so scary.

Not only will this method help soothe the toddler before a checkup (I’ve tried it, and it works), but it may also lay the foundation for a future career. And isn’t that the rookie dad’s way of thinking?

The book also contains helpful hints for dads on child naps, potty training and eating. Read this book and before you know it, your rookie season will be over and your toddler will be ready for the big leagues. Brad Spencer


Helping children conjure up the magic of books

How to Get Your Child to Love Reading: For Ravenous and Reluctant Readers Alike, by Esme Raji Codell, Algonquin Books Of Chapel Hill, 2003, $18.95.

On a recent trip to the bookstore, I was startled by the number of children’s books written by celebrities. Children’s books written by Madonna, Ray Romano, Jay Leno and Billy Crystal (to name only a few) took center stage on the display shelves.

Where, I wondered, were the books written by real children’s authors? The authors whose life work was achieving an extraordinary level of craftsmanship and artistry?

Esme Raji Codell answers that question. An experienced librarian, teacher, children’s author and founder of the first children’s literary salon, Chicago’s own "Madame Esme" raises the literary bar. She provides book lists, recommending the best of the best, for every genre and category imaginable. Whether your child (or student) is interested in historical fiction, mathematics, survival stories or pizza, Codell will lead you to an excellent age- and ability-appropriate selection. Notably, we are even introduced to authors and illustrators from outside of the United States whose books are published and popular in other countries.

The literature-related projects and activities distinguish this book from other literary compendiums. Codell’s inventive story stretchers will inspire avid readers and gently engage reluctant ones. Per Madame Esme’s suggestions, you and your child might build a time machine from a cardboard box, record your own radio broadcast or learn the dance steps to the Lindy.

Parents and teachers will also appreciate Codell’s commentary. In an erudite and witty manner, she takes on important issues in reading, literacy and education.

Most important, this book gives parents the knowledge and resources to make choices and carefully determine the quality of their child’s reading experience. Introducing your children to the right book at the right time will ignite that magical chemistry that opens up their world and inspires their love of reading.

Parents and teachers will refer to this book again and again for fresh ideas and inspiration. For more activities and offerings at Codell’s literary salon, call the Planet Esme Bookroom, (773) 764-3710, or visit Emilija Novitovic, M.Ed.


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