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Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother…
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Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French… (2012)

by Pamela Druckerman

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narrated by Abby Craden

The backstory: I've been curious about Bringing Up Bebe since it first came out, but now that I'm pregnant (the nomadbaby is due August 9th), it seemed like a great time to finally read it. On the recommendation of Jen at Devourer of Books, I opted for the audio version.

The basics: Pamela Druckerman is a journalist and New Yorker who falls in love with a Brit and settles in Paris. Once they have a daughter, Bean, Druckerman begins to notice how different French children are than American children. They don't whine. They're not picky eaters. They sleep through the night earlier. yet when she asks French parents, they don't claim to do anything special or know what they're doing. In fact, compared to her U.S. friends who all espouse a variety of named parenting philosophies, the French parents insist that's just how children are.

My thoughts: One of my biggest fears about motherhood is exhaustion. I've always been a sleeper, and I don't function well on prolonged lack of sleep. Obviously, I'm aware that early motherhood will have me short on sleep, but I'm eager to find out anything that might help that period be as short as possible. In this sense, I enjoyed the first part of Bringing Up Bebe most because it focuses on the youngest children. My not-yet-born child does not yet whine in my fantasies, yet ini my head he does smile adorably in the middle-of-the-night when I wish I were sleeping.

Bringing Up Bebe begins with some background on Druckerman and her husband, which was interesting, but I was glad when she shifts the narrative to pregnancy. I didn't expect this book to include cultural differences about pregnancy, which I've read a lot about already. While I enjoyed her observations about pregnant French women, this section included the first red flags that Druckerman writes as a journalist who is not always willing to examine evidence or her own assumptions. There's nothing necessarily wrong with that stance, but throughout this book she vacillates between journalist and memoirist. This combination frustrated me as a reader at times, particularly because so many of her personal opinions she refuses to examine as a journalist are not ones I share.

Typically what I love about memoirs is having a glimpse into a person's real life. I liked that here, but I also realized for all the parts of this book I really enjoyed, I don't think Pamela Druckerman and I would be friends in real life. In fiction, I don't need my characters to be likeable as long as they're interesting and I understand their motivations. Listening to this book made me realize that preference extends to nonfiction too. Druckerman passes the interesting test--her life is fascinating, but her unwillingness to fully embrace this topic as a journalist frustrated me. For all the good observations (much more than half), there were several missed opportunities.

The verdict: There's a lot of wisdom and interesting observation about French parenting in Bringing Up Bebe. When Druckerman wrote as a journalist, I enjoyed this book much more than when she veered into more of a memoir style. There's a lot of good in this book, but I wished Druckerman would have pushed herself farther.

Audio thoughts: Abby Craden's narration was superb. Her French pronunciation (to my Anglophone ears) was accurate without being over-the-top. She read with emotion, and her voice reminds me of my favorite audiobook narrator, Cassandra Campbell. I'm glad I picked this one up on audio, as I fear Druckerman's opinions would have been more grating in print.

Rating: 4 out of 5 (4.5 out of 5 on audio) ( )
  nomadreader | Jun 10, 2014 |
Oh this book and I had a love hate relationship. At the beginning I was not even sure I would make it all the way through. The author seemed self absorbed and really rubbed me the wrong way. Once the book got into the French parenting "philosophy" I was more engaged in the story and did make it all the way through. The book hardly seemed revolutionary and what I took away was that I could probably very easily get along with French parents....we parent similarly. Which is to say that French parents use techniques our grandparents or parents generation found successful. And well I did not LOVE this book I think there are probably many people who would find something useful in here. ( )
  dms02 | Feb 27, 2014 |
The whole time that I read this book I kept thinking this is the way Mama and Daddio raised us. This isn't particularly French. Ideas like set times for eating, needing to taste everything on ones plate, bedtime so parents have time together, and the need to teach delayed gratification. All these ideas are ones I grew up with.

I was interested to hear about the French equivalents of Dr Spock. I was glad that she did mention at one point the advantages of American upbringing. It makes the children so outgoing and confident to be so openly loved and cosseted and the center of attention. I have no children so it is easy for me to advocate for boundaries especially in public. This book seems to outline a very common sense approach.

Very engagingly written. Not a textbook on how to adopt these methods, but a fun read using stories to compare Anglophone and French methods of child rearing. ( )
  njcur | Feb 19, 2014 |
Loved it. ( )
  liz.mabry | Sep 11, 2013 |
Finally! An American book on parenting that makes sense! Like Dominique in the book, I am Druckerman's doppelganger: raised in France, I now live and raise my child in North America. Like her, I was torn between what culturally made sense to me and what I was observing around me. Despite getting influenced by my environment (incipient guilt, lack of authority), I mostly stuck to my French roots, namely when it came to having time to myself, encouraging autonomy and explaining the whys and importance of limits.
Reading Druckerman was both a cultural validation and a reminder that - for the most part - it is possible to have well-behaved children. Her sense of humour, curiosity and honesty made the read all the more compelling and entertaining, an all around delight both for information and pleasure.
I highly recommend this book for mothers-to-be and mothers of young children. ( )
1 vote Cecilturtle | Aug 4, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
Much of the so-called French child rearing wisdom compiled here is obvious. ... Ms. Druckerman is oddly unjournalistic here. "Bringing Up Bébé" is essentially a series of generalizations based on her American and French friends and her own experiences as a mother.
 
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Epigraph
Les petits poissons dans l'eau
Nagent aussi bien que les gros.
The little fish in the water
Swim as well as the big ones do.

-- French children's song
Dedication
For Simon,
who makes everything matter
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When my daughter is eighteen months old, my husband and I decide to take her on a little summer holiday.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"The secret behind France's astonishingly well-behaved children. When American journalist Pamela Druckerman has a baby in Paris, she doesn't aspire to become a "French parent." French parenting isn't a known thing, like French fashion or French cheese. Even French parents themselves insist they aren't doing anything special. Yet, the French children Druckerman knows sleep through the night at two or three months old while those of her American friends take a year or more. French kids eat well-rounded meals that are more likely to include braised leeks than chicken nuggets. And while her American friends spend their visits resolving spats between their kids, her French friends sip coffee while the kids play. Motherhood itself is a whole different experience in France. There's no role model, as there is in America, for the harried new mom with no life of her own. French mothers assume that even good parents aren't at the constant service of their children and that there's no need to feel guilty about this.They have an easy, calm authority with their kids that Druckerman can only envy. Of course, French parenting wouldn't be worth talking about if it produced robotic, joyless children. In fact, French kids are just as boisterous, curious, and creative as Americans. They're just far better behaved and more in command of themselves. While some American toddlers are getting Mandarin tutors and preliteracy training, French kids are-by design-toddling around and discovering the world at their own pace. With a notebook stashed in her diaper bag, Druckerman-a former reporter for the Wall Street Journal sets out to learn the secrets to raising a society of good little sleepers, gourmet eaters, and reasonably relaxed parents. She discovers that French parents are extremely strict about some things and strikingly permissive about others. And she realizes that to be a different kind of parent, you don't just need a different parenting philosophy. You need a very different view of what a child actually is. While finding her own firm "non", Druckerman discovers that children-including her own-are capable of feats she'd never imagined."--Provided by publisher.… (more)

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