BEST FRIENDS

THE PLEASURES AND PERILS OF GIRLS' AND WOMEN'S FRIENDSHIPS

You wouldn’t wish the best friends described by these psychotherapists on your worst enemy. To give them credit, Apter (currently a fellow at Cambridge Univ.; Secret Paths, 1995, etc.) and Josselson (Psychology/Towson State Univ.; Revising Herself, 1996), both experts in women’s psychology, set out to add perspective to the recent spate of books and movies celebrating women’s friendships. They seek a context “that neither idealizes . . . nor denigrates” such relationships. Girls and women can form rewarding and enduring connections, the authors say, but those relationships can also be hurtful and damaging. They discount recent research attributing preadolescent girls’ diminishing self-esteem to societal pressure and suggest instead that “the worst anguish . . . is learned in the neglected but indelible doings with girlfriends.” What follows, despite the authors— attempts at nuanced understanding of why girls fail each other and lessons to be learned, is a litany of anecdotes about cruelty, jealousy, fickleness, and fear. From here on the authors’ own recollections and the agonies of Tanya, Wilma, Rose, Angie, Robin, Della, and Quinisha regarding “the friendship wars” takes over. Ninth graders Wendy and Janet spent every Saturday afternoon together, until one Saturday Wendy had to visit a “sick aunt.” Sure enough, riding a bus that afternoon, Janet spotted Wendy window shopping with schoolmate Sandra. (The story, incidentally, is told by a now 40-year-old Janet.) Thirteen-year-old Rowena listens in on a phone conversation between her best friend and another girl. Rowena is dissed. Clare Boothe Luce’s The Women is but one stereotypical scenario that comes to mind. Boys are stereotyped as well, depicted as solving their relationship problems on the playing field. The authors do go on to suggest that female friendships provide support and understanding that can’t be found elsewhere. The thesis that the turmoil of the adolescent friendship dance is valuable in both learning about relationships and defining self is valid, but this description of female best friends is likely to make misogynists of us all. (For a different look at women’s friendships, see Nina Barrett, The Girls, p. 861.)

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 1998

ISBN: 0-609-60116-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1998

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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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