Friday, September 18, 2009

The Perfect Baby Handbook: An Interview

Interview with Dale Hrabi
by: Lauren


Read this interview and then scroll down for details on a future giveaway and the rest of September!

1. I love the idea behind The Perfect Baby Handbook. Where did it first come from? As for the illustrations in the book, they are great and some are definitely humorous. Who was the mastermind behind these?

I wrote The Perfect Baby Handbook for two reasons:

1) Two close friends of mine in New York City became pregnant at the same time and I watched them grow increasingly anxious as they started reading childrearing manuals full of conflicting advice; these books’ emphasis on developmental milestones and developmental stimulation seemed designed to make any would-be parent paranoid that his or her offspring would grow up sluggish and ill-equipped to compete in an ever-competitive world. My friends obviously needed some comic relief, so I would make jokes to cheer them up.

2) As a writer who’s often analyzed subcultures, I found the broader world of modern parenting fascinating. There is/was so much emphasis on genius-ifying your kid, so much pressure to spend crazy amounts for the most strategic gear/toys/clothing. Especially in certain urban, prosperous communities, parents have seemingly lost all perspective and allowed their lives to become baby-centric: “Nothing matters but parenting success,” seemed to be the philosophy. It all seem ed ripe for satire.

So I wrote a mock-manual that both empathized with the pressures parents face, and lightly satirized the extremes to which they find themselves going.As for the illustrations, I would think up the ideas and then a talented Toronto-based illustrator named Kagan McLeod would execute them in Adobe Illustrator. Often he and I went through several stages of revision until the illustration satisfied me. It was an involved, but v. rewarding process. Coincidentally, he and his wife had a baby about halfway through the process and he used his pregnant wife and newborn child as models for several of the images. I love the illustrations.

2. Most people know that soon-to-be parents can get a little out of control when it comes to raising the best baby possible: reading science books to their stomach and/or playing Mozart while pregnant. Are there any specific parts of the book that came from a real story you heard?

Yes, many of the specifics in the book were inspired directly or indirectly by real parents’ experiences. A few examples:

• One of my friends wanted her baby to have a “faux-hawk” hairdo but was frustrated by his lack of actual hair. That was the jumping off point for a hairstyles section (p. 120)

• “A Parent’s Guide to Surveillance” (p. 72) grew directly out of my friend Melinda’s account of her annoyance when a stranger on an airplane wouldn’t=2 0smile back at her baby.

• “Advanced Slumber Strategies” (p. 40) was also inspired by Melinda’s baby, who defied every known method for inducing sleep. Melinda had tried recreating the sounds of the womb with blow-dryers and washing machines (this turned into the third strategy: “Churn butter doggedly”).

• The fetal-stimulation belt on page 8-9 is a satirical take on the controversial BabyPlus system, which appears to be a scam- product backed by pseudo-science. A friend of mine had fallen for the sales pitch and spent 150 bucks or so on this device, only to decide she’d been ripped off. (

• Another friend had read a newspaper story advising her to throw away all her expensive baby toys and let her daughter play with a cardboard box instead. This led me to research “back-to-basic” toys and write the piece on p. 105.

3. Your website has a few promotional videos for the book (such as Finding Hidden Meaning in Your Baby's Poop). Why did you decide to put together this representation of the book? Who is behind the animation and voice of said videos?

I felt that since the book was so visual, creating some “book trailers” by animating some of the illustrations might help me interest would-be readers in the Perfect Baby Handbook, and quickly convey its concept and attitude. These were done very cheaply. I wrote the scripts. That is my voice you20hear. (An acquaintance who is an advertising creative director offered to record and edit the voice-tracks in his home studio) A former magazine colleague who is trying to break into the animation world undertook the task of bringing the illos to life.

4. Do you have any children of your own? Whether you do or don't, what is one thing you actually would do to enhance your baby's learning or abilities that might seem a bit odd?

I don’t have children of my own, at least not yet. I’m sure, if I did, that I would be highly vulnerable to the notion that some device or strategy would “improve” my kid’s mind, and I would probably spend too much time, money, and effort testing these notions out. After writing the book, though, I believe, though, that the best way to stimulate your child is the old-fashioned way: Talking to her, playing with blocks together, allowing her time to stare into space or stare at a flower versus sitting her down alone in front of an educationsal DVD, scheduling every moment, or pressuring her to learn to read prematurely.

5. Your website boasts some products that will soon be available from onesies to tote bags. Anything you can tell us about these items and when they might be available (or if they will be already when this posts in September)?

There were some technical difficulties and I’ve since taken on a demanding, full-time media job. I’m still hoping to make a limited number of products available…not sure when.

6. And finally, our must-have question. If you had to wish on a shooting star, what would you wish for and why?

More time. Our world is too speeded-up, and our lives are going by so fast. I have much I’d like to achieve, but I’d also like to spend more time with loved ones, friends, nature, books. I love to laugh, but in the drive to get through the day, the need to laugh is often back-burnered. I’m sure this is something many parents can relate to, and I wrote the book to encourage people to pause, try to regain some perspective, and hopefully laugh.

Giveaway Notice-

You better read this because there will be a test! Alright, maybe just a tiny quiz. Next week, it will go up (all the answers can be found from this interview) and you must answer the quiz to be entered into a giveaway for a copy of this book, The Perfect Baby Handbook. It's humorous and fun...perfect for anyone with a new baby in their life whether it's yours or not, and even for those that just like amusing novels and happen to like babies! :)

If you comment on this post now though you'll get some extra entries into the giveaway so I would if I were might not get the points later...I'm not sure yet. Look out for the book review as well! More baby, kid, and parent posts to come: guests are coming, interviews are done, and we have giveaways giveaways and oh yeah, giveaways!!! Spread the word please. If anyone wants to make a quick button for this, please do!!!


Pam said...

It is so true! As a mother of 2 young children (3 yrs. and 6 months), I can attest that there is so much pressure to be a super-parent that those of us who are just normal, average parents appear neglectful! I`ve been made to feel guilty because I am not, nor do I want to be, a stay at home mom when my maternity leave is over. People can`t believe that I`ve actually fed my children baby food from a jar! And the fact that I regularly let my 3 yr. old have overnights at Grandma & Grandpa`s without bawling my eyes out is appalling apparently. Let`s not even talk about the fact that I don`t have my 3 yr. old signed up for at least 2 sports and music lessons!

anndrreaaa said...

This was a very interesting interview, I'll have to look into that book being a new mommy myself :] Thanks for posting this!

anndrreaaa said...

Oh and lol @ the woman not smiling back at her baby on the airplane.. I think that would irritate me too though haha

anndrreaaa said...

Oh and lol @ the woman not smiling back at her baby on the airplane.. I think that would irritate me too though haha

elaine said...

Great interview! This would make a fun gift for a baby shower.

Elaine R

Shooting Stars Mag said...

Pam: Oh wow, that's horrible. I think moms should be able to go and work or stay home with the kids...whichever they wish to do and, hopefully, are able to do financially of course. And as for having your kids into everything under the sun. I think that's insane unless the kid wants too and you are able to allow them too. I used to have friends that were always in EVERYTHING and I never could figure out why and if it was more the parents or them wishing too. Crazy crazy. But I'm glad the book sounds like something fun you could enjoy.

Andrea: I would probably be a tad irritated as well. LOL But thanks for the comment, I'm so happy to hear you enjoyed the interview and definitely check out the book. I'm sure new mommies need LOTS of things to get them laughing these days. :)

Elaine: Thank you! And I agree. It would be great. Something cute and fun and baby related for the MOM.


Tara said...

My motto has always been "Have kids, will travel." It's an attitude some new parents don't understand. The book sounds great, and I think all parents could use a laugh.

Cafe Fashionista said...

This is an amazing review. I really should invest in this book for my sister - she has a nine-month-old baby boy! :)

Mystica said...

I am an old mother whose three children are really grown up but I do understand the pressure on mothers and sometimes children also to conform/be upto it/beupto whatever is in fashion. the book should be interesting for everyone! not just young mothers.


trishalynn0708 said...

You have an award at my blog

bekki1820cb said...

I CAN NOT WAIT TO READ THIS!!!! If I do not win...I am heading to Barnes and Noble to buy it! Thanks so much for the great interview!

Malinda said...

This sounds like an interesting book that I definitely want to read! I am a new mother myself (my baby boy is 2 1/2 months old) and it is frustrating how much advice there is out there! I also do not like how mothers are obsessed with turning their child into a genius.