A mother’s collection of bromides to her young daughter that centers on healthy emotional growth.
This life guide and memoir from Herman (Stories We Tell Ourselves, 2013, etc.) aims a set of life-rules at 7- to 11-year-old girls, along with stories that show these values in action. The author originally wrote the guide at the request of her then-8-year-old daughter, Grace, who wanted a book of advice like the ones that Marmee gives the March girls in Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel Little Women. Years later, Herman’s daughter rediscovered the guide, which served as the basis of this book. Initially, the platitudes about growing up and doing the right thing veer the book into vague, self-help territory. Its overstatement of the universality of the golden rule, for example, almost feels like a lecture. Herman’s advice becomes more nuanced as the chapters progress, beginning with a section that distills the golden rule’s fundamental requirement: empathy. A later section illustrates the importance of expressing all types of feelings, even if they aren’t positive ones. Herman allows room for girls to experience a range of emotions, rather than confining them to “good and happy” feelings. In other chapters, the author depicts situations that girls may find tough to navigate, using honest phrasing that shows compassion and restraint (“If people are angry with you…for saying “no” to something that’s bad for you, then these are people you will not enjoy having in your life”). She pairs the tidbits of advice with black-and-white illustrations, drawn by her husband, which show women of all ages at work, play and home, in both solitude and sisterhood. The book closes with some prescient tips on finding love, aimed at girls who are likely still in the awkward, crush phase of adolescence, yet on the cusp of dating. It provides young women with an adult perspective, even if, at times, it feels oversimplified. Overall, however, Herman’s book may help to ease readers into their teenage years, at a time when they want to be both independent and nurtured.
A sweet, if occasionally hackneyed, book of advice for young girls.