Books by Harriet Lerner

ANIMALS
Released: May 31, 2001

Lerner and Goldhor are so agenda-driven—their message to Be Your Own Person! feels like it's being nailed to your forehead—that their story is more like a lecture, despite the peerless Oxenbury's sweet-hearted illustrations. Franny has a great mop of wild red hair—her pride and joy. Mother, sister, and father all advise her to get it cut—or at least tamed—but she refuses. Comes the day of the family reunion and her mother insists that she get a hair-do, which is essentially piling the hair in a topknot. At first Franny is appalled, but when a bird takes up residence in her hair, she decides it might be all right. As in several other recent stories about tending to unexpected tenants, (The Singing Hat, p. 187; Albert, p. 263), Franny accommodates the bird by bathing instead of showering, sleeping upright, and doing deep-knee bends to take off her shoes. She is the hit of the reunion (bringing happiness to the dour and the halt in another of Lerner and Goldhor's ham-handed lessons)—but decides the next day to get her hair cut. Why? "A little birdie told me to," she chirrups as she hands the clippings to the bird to build a nest. This force-feeding of Franny's nonconformity is enough to make rebellious youngsters want to toe the line, if this is what being a maverick means. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
NON-FICTION
Released: May 1, 1998

A popular psychotherapist writes with grace and striking candor about what it is like to be a mother. Lerner (The Dance of Deception, 1993, etc.) has two sons, both now grown and out of the house—but still friends with their mother and father, and with each other. That is no small accomplishment, and while Lerner gives herself and her husband (also a psychologist) appropriate credit for what they did right, she also looks back regretfully on what she did wrong. "Readers . . . [of] my other books may be surprised to learn that I can behave so badly with my own children," she writes, a confession that is designed to give comfort to every mother who suffers from hindsight guilt. Using anecdotes from her own experience and that of colleagues and friends, Lerner looks at issues of control ("we are not in control of what happens to our children"), at the decision to have children ("a leap of faith"), at how the reality of the baby in the bassinet at home affects the relationship with a spouse (it changes, not always for the worse, but it changes). She also describes the wild extremes of emotion that many new mothers entertain, from "intense elation" to murderous rage, and roller coasters of guilt and fear. A self-styled "big worrier," Lerner also offers advice on how to finesse worrying, power struggles, and such common mothering traps as food, sex, dress codes, and raising sons to be "mama's boys." How siblings develop relationships with each other and the intricate networks of extended families are other subjects she tackles. Entertaining and revealing. Lerner's committed readers will enjoy and perhaps be reconciled to their own parenting styles from this view of her as a mother who is sometimes irrational, sometimes wise, but who loves her children "beyond words." Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 30, 1996

O'Neill's sunny illustrations abet Lerner and Goldhor's first children's book but can't hoist it aloft. Katie teases her little sister, Rosie, about the consequences of accidentally swallowing an apple seed: A tree will shortly take root in Rosie's stomach. Katie assures her the branches will grow out of her ears and get all the sunshine they need. Swearing the younger girl to secrecy, she carries the deception a step further by examining Katie's ears at night for incipient budding. Even when Rosie is sad and can't sleep, a guilt-stricken Katie, afraid to tell the truth, comes up with more elaborations on the lie to cheer her sister up. When Rosie reveals her secret to a friend, she learns the truth and confronts Katie, who blames the victim (``I can't help it if you believe everything I say!'') but is secretly relieved. Determinedly lighthearted in telling and pictures, the book feels superficial: Katie gets off the hook without any scrutiny of what is really a cruel and prolonged prank. For a sharper observance of truth and consequences, there's the Caldecott-winning classic by Evaline Ness, Sam, Bangs, and Moonshine. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >