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Book helps children face getting a stepparent

Special to The Recorder

“A Stepmom for Beth” by Lynn Clydesdale (Mount Sugarloaf Press, 29 pages, $8.95)

The Wicked Stepmother of fairy and folk tales reflects a fact of life in the historical period in which stories like “Cinderella” emerged in popular culture. Mortality rates were high and many women died in childbirth. Stepparents, stepsiblings and half siblings were therefore common. Not all of them were kind.

Today, stepparents abound once more. Mortality rates are down, but divorce rates have increased. Many children again face the prospect of a stepparent. Unfortunately, for many of them the word “stepmother” still conjures up a vision of the cruel, powerful women who made life miserable for characters like Cinderella and Snow White.

Lynn Clydesdale of South Deerfield would like to change that stereotype. Clydesdale is a retired special education teacher and counselor with master’s degrees in education and educational psychology.

She is also a stepmother herself. Her new book, “A Stepmom for Beth,” is aimed at children aged roughly from 5 through 8.

Six-year-old Beth lives with her mother and enjoys special times with her father on weekends. As the book opens, Beth waits for her father’s arrival on a Saturday morning, nervous in the knowledge that he is bringing his new fiancée to meet her.

Happily, that fiancée, Bobbi, turns out to be a caring, understanding person who offers support to Beth without trying either to replace her mother or to minimize her fears. The book doesn’t promise that the two will always get along, but it shows them moving toward friendship.

The book’s prose is slightly stilted. Nevertheless, the author makes her characters sympathetic and attractive. “A Stepmom for Beth” invites the reader (youthful or adult) to identify with the little girl and her dilemma.

The color illustrations by graphic artist Eric Guerke enhance the book’s emotional content without upstaging Clydesdale’s words. Little Beth’s thoughts come across believably on her face.

Clydesdale doesn’t pretend that all stepparents-to-be will be as welcoming or as attractive as Bobbi. Nevertheless, her book should help children face the prospect of a parent’s remarriage.

The author suggests that the book be read to children by a caring adult who can stimulate discussion about expectations, changing families, and stereotypes.

“A Stepmom for Beth” may not entirely banish the figure of the Wicked Stepmother from children’s imaginations. It should help young people facing changes in their lives keep that figure in the realm of fiction rather than confuse it with real life, however.

Tinky Weisblat is the author of The Pudding Hollow Cookbook (www.merrylion.com) and Pulling Taffy (www.pullingtaffy.com). She is always looking for new books from Franklin County-related authors to review for this paper. If you have a book suggestion, email her at Tinky@merrylion.com.

It's so great to see more children's books that cast stepmothers in a positive light! We also wrote a book - the first fairytale where the stepmom is a hero. It's called My Fairy Stepmother: http://www.amazon.com/My-Fairy-Stepmother-Marni-Prince/dp/1481041967 We're also compiling a list of books that are helpful for blended families, and we'll add A Stepmom for Beth to the list. When it's ready, it will be posted here: http://www.myfairystepmother.com/stepmom-childrens-books/

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