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Matthew Amster-Burton: Hungry Monkey

(Full disclosure: Matthew is a friend, and I reviewed an early version of the book. A couple of my suggested jokes even got into the final product.)

Every non-fiction book these days needs a colon and a subtitle, and the subtitle of Hungry Monkey is “A Food-Loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater.” Amster-Burton is a food writer, and a few years ago he had a daughter, and this is the result. It’s a collection of funny anecdotes about his and Iris’s relationship with food, restrained advice, and recipes.

Taking those in turn: the funny anecdotes are really funny. This is because Amster-Burton is a really funny guy, and he and his wife, Laurie, are raising a funny girl. He’s a born storyteller, and there’s generally a chuckle every paragraph and a laugh every page. I’m sure that if I also had child-raising experiences to compare his with, I’d be laughing even more.

The advice, as I said, is restrained, and that’s really nice. There are tons of advice books out there about everything, and they all like to assure the reader that they are providing the one perfect solution to his problems. Amster-Burton’s advice generally consists of two types: 1) “Hey, this works for me, you might want to give it a shot,” and 2) “This other book that claims to know all the answers doesn’t really, so don’t take it too seriously.” These both strike me as laudably moderate.

We’ve only tried one of the recipes so far, but unsurprisingly it was great. The recipes are actually not generally particularly child-centric, because Amster-Burton’s main philosophy is (spoiler alert!) to pretty much cook what you were going to cook anyway (with some restrictions) and let your kid eat as much or as little of it as they want.

Anyway, I enjoyed it a lot, and I’d wholeheartedly recommend it, particularly to new parents. The first few chapters are available for free at the book site, OK, enough shilling. But I wouldn’t be shilling for it if it weren’t really good!