The Birth Order Book of Love: How the #1 Personality Predictor Can Help You Find the One. By William Cane. Da Capo. $14.95.
Itsy Bitsy Yoga: 8-Minute Routines to Help Your Child Grow Smarter, Be Happier, and Behave Better. By Helen Garabedian. Da Capo. $16.95.
Considering the fact that so many authors have the solutions to all the problems of the world, it’s a wonder that the world isn’t in better shape. But never mind: you can be in better shape, and so can your kids, if you simply do what all-knowing authors say, following their recommendations relentlessly. To find the right mate, for example, forget astrological signs, political preferences and the like – just check out each potential partner’s birth order and family arrangement. William Cane explains how by analyzing four types of firstborns and four types of lastborns (“older brother of brothers,” “older brother of sisters,” “younger sister of sisters,” and so on). Then he analyzes within his analysis. For instance, among younger sisters of brothers, girls with one-year-older brothers “have more lastborn qualities,” while those whose brothers are two years older have more of “a playful and teasing character as adults,” and those with a three-year age gap have “a greater desire for independence.” Cane, a former English professor (and firstborn), has come to his conclusions by analyzing some 6,000 people, from everyday couples to celebrities (to whom he did not have direct access) and historical figures (to whom he definitely did not have direct access). Celebrity watchers will be delighted to find out that, because of birth order. Cameron Diaz would be a good match with Brad Pitt, and Jared Leto should do well with Paris Hilton, even though the Diaz-Leto coupling (which lasted four years) was between lastborns. Oh, and what about people who are middle children? Cane gets to them eventually, explaining that they “have the greatest potential for adaptability and multiple personality roles. No, this doesn’t mean you’re schizophrenic or that you have multiple personalities!” Whew – that’s a load off many middle children’s minds! The good thing about The Birth Order Book of Love, which is written in a pleasantly breezy style, is that it does provide some insight into the way birth order can influence relationships. The bad thing is that, scientifically, it is a combination of utter nonsense (retrospective analysis of historical figures on a birth-order basis? Oh, please!) and the same sort of dogmatism that insists on compatible or incompatible astrological signs or (in the case of the Chinese zodiac) compatibility with people separated in age by multiples of four but not by numbers of six. Cane’s book is fun to read and offers both amusement and occasional insight. But don’t go up to the next attractive stranger you see and immediately start a conversation about his or her birth order, number of siblings and their respective ages.
Once you get past finding “the One,” or at least a One, you can settle down with Helen Garabedian and find out how to make your kids healthier and happier by positioning their bodies in prearranged poses. This is not an exaggeration: Garabedian, founder of Itsy Bitsy Yoga, delivers her mantra right up front: “A Fit Baby = A Fit Toddler = A Fit Preschooler = A Fit School-Aged Child = A Fit Teen = A Fit Adult.” Why don’t all families realize that’s all it takes? There is, in truth, nothing at all wrong with doing yoga (or other forms of exercise) with your kids, but it may be better not to invest the activity with quite as many expectations as Garabedian does. If you can endure the rather sickly sweetness of Garabedian’s book (lots of “Yogi Wogi says” sections), you can certainly learn some basic yoga from it. In fact, Garabedian’s directions are so step-by-step that they often read like space fillers: “Can you wiggle your knees? Stand and wiggle your knees side-to-side repeatedly. Wiggle your knees. Repeat. Wiggle your knees. Repeat. Wiggle your knees. Repeat.” There are serious statements for children to say or think about at the start of each position: “This energetic pose helps me stay fit, learn how to follow directions, and go from busy-ness to restfulness. Each repetition of Run around Yogi teaches me how to quickly drop into a deeper, more relaxed state.” And there are serious ideas for parents, too: “Use Falling Star to turn clean-up chores into a game. Position your front foot behind the item you want to pick up, and then drop into Falling Star and pick the item off the floor with your lower hand.” But the overall tone of Itsy Bitsy Yoga is light. Garabedian comes on a little too strongly about yoga’s ability to cure all ills (she says it increases self-expression, improves listening skills, helps digestion, raises self-esteem and much more); but you need not buy into every element of her advocacy to try out at least a few of these exercises with your kids – and perhaps discover a mutually enjoyable activity, if not necessarily a road map for all of life.