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Book review: How not to calm a child on a plane


One of the best sessions I attended at Blogher ’14 was about screenwriting — how to break into it, how to learn it. Both the presenters were amazing and generous women, but one of them — Johanna Stein — especially resonated with me because she was dang funny. Then she showed some of her videos, like “Thanks Mom” and this PSA with the guy from Modern Family, and I literally died laughing. (Fortunately the SJFD came to revive me, although the paramedic who brought me back was not as hot as I had hoped.)

So of course when Ms. Stein offered up a free copy of her book, How Not to Calm a Child on a Plane: And Other Lessons in Parenting from a Highly Questionable Source, I grabbed it and demanded her autograph. I was really excited to read more funny from this funny, funny lady.

This is where I insert a spoiler alert and let you know that by the end of the book, I was embarrassing myself by laughing out loud in public, and that I ended up getting confronted by my kids to explain what I was laughing at, except I coudln’t explain what I was laughing at because they don’t know about Sophie’s Choice or fetishes yet. But before I got to the embarrassing public laugh-gasm chapters, I quietly enjoyed several chapters that did not make me laugh out loud. They were all good, but for me it felt like the book really picked up steam midway through, and then kept the hits coming through the end. I would like you all to read the book, and then return here and post the phrase “stinky drawers” in the comments so we can have a good, knowing giggle together.

This is a great humor book for moms in particular because so many of Ms. Stein’s experiences will leave you nodding, uh huh. That happened to me too. And that. And then there are these absurd experiences that never happened to me, which made me love hearing about them all the more, like getting a headcrushing massage and free bad haircut from a matron in a children’s salon, or having atheist hippie Jewish parents who commandeered the day after Christmas as their personal family holiday because, half price.

In the end, I would not have Ms. Stein change one word of her writing, but I do think that the chapters could have been better ordered to vary the pacing. They are in chronological order, which certainly makes sense. But because most of the stories that made me giggle till I gasped are in the second half, it feels like it takes awhile to get going.

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