Book Review! The Honest Toddler: A Child’s Guide to Parenting, by Bunmi Laditan

[This review is based on the Nook Book edition from Barnes and Noble, published by Scribner Books in 2013.]

Here’s the deal:
The best way to introduce a review for this book, I believe, is to just let the Honest Toddler speak for herself. Check out some of these blurbs!

HT on Band-Aids: “You may not know this, but toddlers are invincible. If your child is wearing enough Band-Aids (mini-shields), nothing can touch him.” (Laditan 21)

HT on Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother: “It’s easy to spot Tiger Kids in the park. Instead of playing, they’re trying to calculate how the angle of the slide will affect the appearance of their overly starched Ralph Lauren jumpers. Who am I kidding, they don’t go to the park — their afternoons are spent in tutoring centers. Don’t bother sharing your cookies; they have their nightly weigh-in to consider.” (Laditan 28)

HT on Bringing Up Bebe: “‘French kids never cry at the dinner table.’ Why would they? Have you seen those baguettes? If someone gave me a piece of bread shaped like a sword, I’d be satisfied into a state of silence, too.” (Laditan 28)

HT on vegetables: “Ninety-nine percent of vegetables are not fit for human consumption. The other 1 percent is ketchup.” (Laditan 46)

HT on pregnancy (or, as she calls it, Infant Sibling Disease): “When a mommy and daddy love each other very much, they hug alone in the big bed while their sweet baby lies afraid in a little bed because the blanket came off again. This young beautiful child is probably also hungry because dinner was an inedible disaster. This is where it gets more complicated. After they have ignored their sweet baby’s request for water because the child is dehydrated from crying, a centaur flies through the window and gives mommy an acorn. She eats the acorn fast, as if it’s the last Dove bar, and a chemical reaction in her stomach begins to turn it into a baby. Eight years later, a baby will punch its way out of her left leg. That baby will then live with you forever.” (Laditan 81-82)

HT on dogs: “Dogs are toddlers’ closest relations. Toddlers love floor food; dogs love floor food. Toddlers love treats and rewards; so do dogs. Toddlers dream of being able to use the outside as a bathroom; dogs live this reality every day. Bring a dog into your home, and your child will have a best friend for life. Dogs, much like horses, love giving free rides. Look for a small saddle. Check: Does your dog have a tail? It will grow if you pull it just a little bit. Dogs love to share their water and food. Help yourself. Just like toddlers, young dogs may have the occasional accident. As with your toddler, you shouldn’t make a big deal…Your toddler will not learn one thing about responsibility from owning a dog, but who cares.” (Laditan 123-124)

HT on The Walking Dead: “On this show, you’ll see a lot of poorly groomed creatures dragging their feet and mumbling incoherently. If you recognize one of these people as you at five in the morning, you have the insight of a wizard.” (Laditan 172)

HT on bread: “Normal bread is made of flour and water. Don’t let the grocery-store clerks pressure you into trying anything exotic.” (Laditan 177)

Simply stated, this book is masterfully written from the perspective of a toddler by someone who is obviously not a toddler (because I’m sorry, HT, but there’s just no way you learned how to type and properly organize your thoughts into sentences, paragraphs, and chapters without mommy’s help….or am I drastically underestimating you?). Toddlers have zero filters — I would know, I have one — and as I read, I continuously framed HT’s words as though they were coming from Joshua Bear. If you have a toddler, pretend they wrote this book just for you; if you have an infant or a preschooler, imagine them as a toddler and read the book as if they wrote it. If you don’t have a child, Google Bunmi Laditan and take a look at her toddler-age daughter, and then keep her picture in mind as you read.

The book seemingly covers every aspect of toddlerhood, from toddler behavior (“and how to leave it alone”) and sleep (“weaning yourself off it”) to grooming (“how to keep your hands to yourself”) and potty training (“simplified/eliminated”). Each chapter begins with letters to HT and HT’s responses; here’s the opener for the chapter on Toddler-Approved Recipes.

Dear Honest Toddler,
My two-year-old begs for scraps when I’m making dinner but seems to be disgusted by the actual meal once it has been completed. What’s the problem?
– Scratching My Head in Maine

Dear Scratching,
Your recipes.
– Warmly, HT

So that’s what the problem is! It’s not my toddler, it’s my cooking! By the way, HT says toddlers also believe in five food groups: red (popsicles, some apples, and juice), white (“normal” bread, birthday cake, plain pasta, pizza, and marshmallows), juice, cheese (ONLY yellow and string), and chocolate (“be generous”).

Other revelations include frequent reminders of the perfection of grandparents and how much parents can learn from them; how important it is for parents to drop everything they’re doing and focus on making their toddlers happy at all times and at all costs; and the reiteration that toddlers are doing everything perfectly and how parents need to adapt and change. Are you catching a theme here? Basically, HT is spelling out for parents how to raise a toddler properly — and how we’re all doing it wrong — but in a VERY humorous fashion.

My thoughts:
I loved this book from beginning to end! There wasn’t a single moment where I felt bored or that I wanted to set the book aside to read something else instead. In fact, at times I caught myself saying, “Hey! I already do this with my toddler!” Whether that’s a good or bad thing depends on who you ask, though I’m sure HT would say I deserve a gold star or a small mint at those times. The book as a whole is literally laugh-out-loud funny, and it puts traditional parenting books to shame. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

And HT’s mentions of the Tiger Mother piqued my interest, so I’m off to read that next!

So would I recommend this book?
Even if you’re not a parent, this is a must-read. This may be the single funniest book I’ve ever picked up!

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