Rediscovering the 'Me' in 'Mumeeeeeee'

'I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than a housewife’s badly-cooked dinners and untidy ways'. (Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1861)

February 28, 2012

Win children's books for World Book Day

Thursday 1st March is World Book Day in UK and Ireland. World Book day was designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading. A main aim of World Book Day is to encourage children to explore the pleasures of books and reading by providing them with the opportunity to have a book of their own.

To celebrate this great event, I am giving away two children's books to one of my readers. If you would like to be in with a chance of winning the two books highlighted below, please leave a comment below, including a Twitter ID or link to your blog, mentioning your favourite children's book. The winner will be picked at random and will be notified on Friday 2nd March. Good luck!

Paddington Goes for Gold, by Michael Bond.

Dear old Paddington bear never has been particularly effective at maintaining his fitness levels – marmalade sandwiches can lead to cuddly tummies! But this year he’s feeling particularly sporty! There must be a reason, but we’re definitely not officially affiliated with that reason so I’ll let you work it out for yourself...Paddington has decided to attend the school sports day and is desperate to win – things don’t seem to go according to plan though and there are some sticky results! With super shiny GOLD (foil) cover! Paddington Goes for Gold is published by
Harper Collins Children's Books.

Six Little Chicks, by Jez Alborough (multi-million selling author of Duck in the Truck).
Bright, brilliant artwork matches the funny, rhythmic, energy-fuelled story of six courageous chicks. Children will love the repeated action words and thinking of new ways to act them out. Six Little Chicks is a real treat from a much-loved talent. Busy Hen has five little chicks to look after while making sure number six - still an egg- stays warm. The last thing she needs is hairy, scary Fox sniffing about. She is frantic when the other birds warn her that her chicks are in danger, but her five little chicks are a lot braver than she realises! Six Little Chicks is published by Random House.

Also, for World Book Day, I'd like to mention 'Reading Chest', the UK's first 'through-the-post' book rental scheme for 4-9 year olds. The books available to rent are based on reading schemes in UK schools and works in a similar way to DVD rental services. For a monthly membership fee, books tailored to your child's individual preferences are sent out to you, with a pre-paid return envelope. Sounds like a great idea to me. For further details on Reading Chest, check out the website.

For more information on World Book Day 2012 visit the website or Facebook page or follow on Twitter @WorldBookDayUK



February 8, 2012

Reconsidering the Tiger Mother

Last year, I blogged in response to the media frenzy surrounding Amy Chua - the 'Tiger Mother' behind the controversial book 'Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother'. The excerpt from the book which appeared in the Wall Street Journal created an international outcry - and I pounced in to add my tuppence ha'penny worth (you can take the girl out of Yorkshire, but you can't take Yorkshire out of the girl!), giving my view on letting your children find their own way, rather than forcing things upon them.


Having just read Amy's book for the first time, I actually feel obliged to offer the author some sort of an apology. I judged her without fully understanding her. I stamped my feet about her dreadful, strict, cruel parenting methods, without having read about her motivations for doing this and without having heard her - or even her daughters's - side of the story.

If, like me, you think you have an opinion on the 'Tiger Mother' issue, but haven't actually read Amy's book, then I'd highly recommend that you do. I wrote the following review of the book for my blog on - while I still find the 'Tiger Mother' approach shocking and at times upsetting, I think I understand it more now.

When Amy Chau’s ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’ was first published in 2011 and an excerpt appeared in the Wall Street Journal, a huge media backlash began, condemning Amy for her Chinese parenting techniques and seriously questioning the concept of the ‘Tiger Mother’.

I had my own opinion on the matter and wrote on my blog about how shocking it all was and why I would never be a ‘Tiger Mother’ myself. But I hadn’t read Amy’s book. Now, having read the paperback edition which is published by Bloomsbury, my opinion has changed slightly.

‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’, apart from anything else, is an excellently written, humorous, intelligent and, at times, self-deprecating memoir. Amy’s writing is sharp, her account of family life is brutally honest and yet she isn’t afraid to laugh at herself and point out her own flaws.

From the outset, Amy paints a revealing picture of family life with her husband Jed, her daughters Sophia and Lulu (and the dogs who eventually join the family – Amy’s Chinese Mother approach to ‘parenting’ a dog is part insanity, part hilarious account of how she recognises she cannot always be in control).

Of course, Amy’s approach to raising her daughters is vastly – and sometimes shockingly – different to the approach taken by the majority of ‘Western’ parents. And yet, having read ‘Battle Hymn’, I’m not angry with Amy, as I expected to be. I don’t despise her, I don’t even condemn her. I actually applaud her unbelievable self-discipline and drive, even if I cannot understand it and certainly don’t feel that there would be a place for it in my own home.

Her continual, and often very dramatic, battles with her daughters over piano and violin practice may be extreme, but there is a part of me – the coaxing my children to eat their dinners part – which completely gets where Amy is coming from, as a mother, putting herself into an unpleasant situation in the belief that you are trying to do what you believe is best for your children.

There are some very painful low points between Amy and her daughters, but these always seem to be countered by the most amazing high points as they reach a seemingly unattainable goal and shine in their public performances, playing the piano or violin. Amy’s pride and absolute love for her girls, at these times, is hard to deny.

From the gasp-inducing episode of the ‘Birthday Card’, to the relentless pursuit of excellence which involves booking the grand ballroom of the hotel they are staying in while on holiday so the girls don’t miss out on any piano practice time, to dealing with two family illnesses, to the final showdown with her youngest daughter in a restaurant near Red Square, this is an account of family life which I couldn’t put down.

With the paperback edition comes a post script from Amy, which gives us an additional insight into her reaction to the media storm which followed the initial publication of the book. Her re-telling of just one of the many interviews she experienced is hilarious. We also have the letter written from Sophia which was posted in the New York Post: ‘Why I love my Tiger Mother’. This, perhaps above all else, tells the real story of ‘Battle Hymn’.

Perhaps all parents face their own battles when it comes to raising children. ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’ certainly makes you think about your own parenting style. Ironically, I read the closing chapters of the book as I sat sipping a coffee, waving occasionally to my children as my husband played with them in the swimming pool. I could almost feel Amy breathing over my shoulder admonishing me for my shockingly lazy parenting techniques!

Amy Chua’s battle is definitely one to open your eyes – and one which you simply cannot offer an opinion on until you’ve read the book.

‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’ is published by Bloomsbury.

Postscript: When the above review was posted on and I tweeted a link to it, Amy Chua, the author, replied with the tweet below. Check out her Facebook page - I think it gives more insight into the woman behind the words and that while she expects people to dislike her for her 'Tiger Mothering' she is delighted when someone takes the time to read the book and make an informed opinion.

Amy Chua
Thanks for giving me a chance, Hazel! Loved your review + posted it on Facebook

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