An absorbing and frank book that chronicles the author’s triumph over health and personal crises.

READ REVIEW

WARRIOR BRAVE PROTECTOR

A debut memoir details the struggles of a wife with ulcerative colitis and infertility.

When Mills H. and her husband, Rob, adopted their Yorkshire terrier puppy, they named him Riley, to fit with the breeder’s preference and to allude to the expression “life of Riley.” The fact Riley also meant “brave” was a happy coincidence. Just a year earlier, the couple had lost their son, Chad, who was stillborn after his mother’s struggle with ulcerative colitis during pregnancy. Determined to have another child—the daughter both the author and her mother-in-law had strong premonitions Mills H. was destined to deliver—the couple tried intrauterine insemination and in vitro fertilization. Eventually, when Mills H.’s half sister, Michelle, volunteered to be a surrogate carrier, the author leapt at the chance. Finally, she achieved her lifelong dream of motherhood when her daughter, Skylar, was born. Chad’s name means “Warrior” while Skylar means “Protector”—hence, the work’s title. While the memoir primarily focuses on the author’s infertility, her ailments—which contributed significantly to her child-bearing issues—also figure prominently. Additional autobiographical information provides relevant content for her story. All her life, Mills H. looked forward to becoming a homemaker and mother, and she highlights the women in her life who were fortunate enough to have that role. After a false start with a first husband she had to support, the author met and married Rob, a private pilot to celebrities. Of the few secondary characters in the book, Rob remains the most shadowy and one-dimensional, little more than the often traveling spouse. Mills H.’s mother and mother-in-law, and later her half sister, provide the emotional support and care she needs during her trials and are more developed characters. The compelling account does not break new ground in the realm of fertility challenges, but Mills H. is a deeply sympathetic character, although not all readers will identify with her aspiration to be a homemaker. Further, her brushes with celebrity (Thanksgiving and a trip to Greece with Kevin Costner) and her luxurious, golf club community home make her less relatable. Despite her seemingly lavish lifestyle, her medical and fertility problems emphasize her vulnerability.

An absorbing and frank book that chronicles the author’s triumph over health and personal crises.

Pub Date: Dec. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5353-8112-3

Page Count: 160

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

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A miscellany of paternal pride (and frustration) darkened by the author’s increasing realizations of his mortality.

DAD'S MAYBE BOOK

Ruminations and reminiscences of an author—now in his 70s—about fatherhood, writing, and death.

O’Brien (July, July, 2002, etc.), who achieved considerable literary fame with both Going After Cacciato (1978) and The Things They Carried (1990), returns with an eclectic assembly of pieces that grow increasingly valedictory as the idea of mortality creeps in. (The title comes from the author’s uncertainty about his ability to assemble these pieces in a single volume.) He begins and ends with a letter: The initial one is to his first son (from 2003); the terminal one, to his two sons, both of whom are now teens (the present). Throughout the book, there are a number of recurring sections: “Home School” (lessons for his sons to accomplish), “The Magic Show” (about his long interest in magic), and “Pride” (about his feelings for his sons’ accomplishments). O’Brien also writes often about his own father. One literary figure emerges as almost a member of the family: Ernest Hemingway. The author loves Hemingway’s work (except when he doesn’t) and often gives his sons some of Papa’s most celebrated stories to read and think and write about. Near the end is a kind of stand-alone essay about Hemingway’s writings about war and death, which O’Brien realizes is Hemingway’s real subject. Other celebrated literary figures pop up in the text, including Elizabeth Bishop, Andrew Marvell, George Orwell, and Flannery O’Connor. Although O’Brien’s strong anti-war feelings are prominent throughout, his principal interest is fatherhood—specifically, at becoming a father later in his life and realizing that he will miss so much of his sons’ lives. He includes touching and amusing stories about his toddler sons, about the sadness he felt when his older son became a teen and began to distance himself, and about his anguish when his sons failed at something.

A miscellany of paternal pride (and frustration) darkened by the author’s increasing realizations of his mortality.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-618-03970-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Mostly conservative in its stance and choices but common-sensical and current.

HOW TO RAISE A READER

Savvy counsel and starter lists for fretting parents.

New York Times Book Review editor Paul (My Life With Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues, 2017, etc.) and Russo, the children’s book editor for that publication, provide standard-issue but deftly noninvasive strategies for making books and reading integral elements in children’s lives. Some of it is easier said than done, but all is intended to promote “the natural, timeless, time-stopping joys of reading” for pleasure. Mediumwise, print reigns supreme, with mild approval for audio and video books but discouraging words about reading apps and the hazards of children becoming “slaves to the screen.” In a series of chapters keyed to stages of childhood, infancy to the teen years, the authors supplement their advice with short lists of developmentally appropriate titles—by their lights, anyway: Ellen Raskin’s Westing Game on a list for teens?—all kitted out with enticing annotations. The authors enlarge their offerings with thematic lists, from “Books That Made Us Laugh” to “Historical Fiction.” In each set, the authors go for a mix of recent and perennially popular favorites, leaving off mention of publication dates so that hoary classics like Janice May Udry’s A Tree Is Nice seem as fresh as David Wiesner’s Flotsam and Carson Ellis’ Du Iz Tak? and sidestepping controversial titles and themes in the sections for younger and middle-grade readers—with a few exceptions, such as a cautionary note that some grown-ups see “relentless overparenting” in Margaret Wise Brown’s Runaway Bunny. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series doesn’t make the cut except for a passing reference to its “troubling treatment of Indians.” The teen lists tend to be edgier, salted with the provocative likes of Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, and a nod to current demands for more LGBTQ and other #ownvoices books casts at least a glance beyond the mainstream. Yaccarino leads a quartet of illustrators who supplement the occasional book cover thumbnails with vignettes and larger views of children happily absorbed in reading.

Mostly conservative in its stance and choices but common-sensical and current.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5235-0530-2

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Workman

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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