Why an American raised her children with a German parenting style

“Achtung Baby” is an American woman’s account of how she altered her parenting methods to mimic her new German neighbors.

When Sara Zaske (“The First,” 2012) moved with her husband and young daughter to Berlin, she discovered that her German neighbors handled parenting quite differently than what she was used to in the U.S. In this well-written mix of personal reflections and sociological data, the author explains why she decided to change how she raised her daughter and newborn son to fit in with German attitudes toward parenting. Although skeptical at first, she soon discovered that many of her fears and concerns regarding playground safety, a parent’s need to be ever-watchful and engaging in endless play rather than academics were unwarranted. Her children thrived under the less-controlling lifestyle and became far more secure and self-reliant, as do most German children. Germans allow even the very young to use knives and matches under supervision and older children to walk to and from school or to the playground unaccompanied by an adult. Like many Europeans, they emphasize the importance of being outside regardless of the weather, with infants left well bundled in strollers while parents shop or eat lunch indoors; visits to numerous parks and green spaces are also common. Nudity is readily accepted, and human sexuality is taught early in the schools, providing children with a solid knowledge base from which to make informed decisions before they reach puberty. Zaske also examines the difference between the German educational system’s intentional teaching and awareness of the Holocaust and the U.S. and its “cursory treatment of our country’s historical crimes.” Even though the author’s children didn’t reach their teens while they were in Berlin, she includes important details about the freedoms German teens enjoy, including specially designed sites where they can congregate with friends.

Zaske’s book is an entertaining, informative and enlightening narrative on the German methods of parenting that will have many in the U.S. reconsidering how they’re raising their children.

Magic, family and the apocalypse

When the world as they know it ends, the survivors of a mysterious plague are faced with a new world in which both dark and light magic are rising in Nora Roberts’ “Year One.”

“When Ross MacLeod pulled the trigger and brought down the pheasant, he had no way of knowing he’d killed himself. And billions of others.” So begins the latest novel from publishing juggernaut Roberts, and the rest of the book is just as gripping. When a virus takes out nearly 80 percent of the Earth’s human population, the survivors must figure out how to live in their new world, which includes the appearance of a varied set of magical abilities in a large part of the surviving population. Both the magick and un-magick people have violent factions which are trying to vanquish internal and external enemies, and good people from both groups have to band together in order to stay safe and establish a new order that honors life and decency. In one such community, witches Lana and Max are having a child, and from the moment of conception, it’s obvious that the child will be magical. As her pregnancy advances, Lana begins to suspect that even in the context of the new magical paradigm, her child has a special destiny, an impression that becomes clearer when she realizes she and her unborn child are being hunted. Finding sanctuary on a remote farm, Lana ushers the child into the world, and soon both foes and allies begin to arrive at her doorstep, deepening Lana’s belief that her daughter is meant for something great and dangerous. Roberts’ new direction is electric and ground-breaking. In some ways, it’s a synthesis of her past work: she’s often written about magical elements, family — both biological and emotional — and community. In this series launch, she’s created a believable apocalypse that is obviously leading to a grand showdown between good and evil, but the story and the characters — there are many, and she’s made some choices that are going to stun her die-hard romance fans — navigate timely issues of tolerance and bigotry; fear of the Other; violence on behalf of perceived “purity” and misdirected religious zeal; and how good people combat evil.

“Year One” is a fast-paced, mesmerizing, and thought-provoking novel that will no doubt add to Roberts’ legions of fans.

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