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The Practical Mind

THE COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF PHYSICIANS AND SURGEONS COMPLETE GUIDE TO EARLY CHILD CARE Nicholas Cunningham MD and Donald Tapley MD, Medical Editors (Crown: $32.50)

September 02, 1990|KAREN STABINER

Pound for pound, this book is a great bargain. Fiction best sellers run $24.95 and too often dress up an old story in a new outfit. Here, for $32.50, you get a distillation of everything you did and didn't want to know about your children and were afraid--or too busy--to ask.

The behavioral section (a sobering set of essays for the ecstatic new parent, who believes that no other child has ever pointed an index finger nor gummed a peach into submission with such aplomb) takes the reader from pregnancy through the preschool years, and includes essays on emotional and intellectual development, socialization, safety and nutrition.

The medical section, which makes up half the hefty tome, is the equivalent of those med-school textbooks that temporarily turn every med student into a raving hypochondriac. It is best to delve into these pages, which describe everything that can go wrong with even the smallest minority of children, only if you are a doctor. In a well-intentioned attempt to be definitive, the authors catalogue every sneeze and sniffle, and then some. It's hard to read through the descriptions without wondering if little Johnny or Jeanette doesn't have just a touch of the rare malady you've just read about.

But this isn't really meant as informational reading. This is a reference book, a general guide to the early years, not intended as a replacement either for intuition or for folksier works by Penelope Leach or the "What to Expect in the First Year" trio. It is a stepping-off place--a somewhat conservative one, in truth, that includes overly cautious advice like boiling all early foods to keep from startling the tiny palate. You'll feel secure with it sitting on the bookshelf; just make sure it's a high bookshelf, because the guide will cause quite a bruise if left within its subject's grasp.

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