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***The Baby Owner's Manual

Operating Instructions, Trouble-Shooting Tips, and Advice on First-Year Maintenance

by Louis Borgenicht, M.D., and Joe Borgenicht, D.A.D.

Reviewed April 20, 2004.
Quirk Books, Philadelphia, 2003.  228 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (649.122 BOR).

I had to check out this book so I could laugh and laugh.  Although I found it wildly funny, the information in this book is actually accurate and informative.  What makes this baby book different from any other is that it’s written as an operator’s manual.

“This baby is surprisingly similar to other appliances you may already own.  Like a personal computer, for instance, the baby will require a source of power to execute her many complicated tasks and functions.  Like a videocassette recorder, the baby’s head will require frequent cleanings for optimum performance.  And like an automobile, the baby may expel unpleasant odors into the atmosphere.”

This book is perfect for the new parent who is not daunted by technical manuals and wonders where’s the manual that comes with the baby?  At last, someone has provided an owner’s manual to instruct you how to care for your baby, and how to accomplish important maintenance procedures like home installation, troubleshooting the baby’s audio cues, understanding the baby’s power supply, programming sleep mode, and emergency maintenance.

One of the funny things about the book is how well this technical sort of language actually works.  I love the diagrams, especially the parts lists, showing the eye as “optical input.”  Although I’ve never heard it worded this way before, this paragraph on crying is completely true:  “The baby’s audio output system includes two lungs, vocal chords, and a mouth.  The baby will use these features to communicate.  Since most models do not come with verbal language facility pre-installed, your model’s first attempts at communication may sound meaningless.  This is a common misconception among new users.  These audio cues, called cries, often contain a great deal of information for users.”

As the authors say in the introduction, “When used properly, the baby will provide years of love, devotion, and joy.  But understanding how to use the baby takes practice, so it is important to be patient.  Over the next few months, you may experience feelings of frustration, incompetence, hopelessness, and despair.  These feelings are all normal—and, in time, they will disappear.  One day in the near future, the ideas of changing diapers and warming formula will seem as easy to you as booting up a PC or setting the alarm on your clock-radio.  And then you will know that you have truly mastered baby ownership.”

This is the perfect gift for a new Dad who’s comfortable around equipment but has never faced something like a new baby.  Of course, it’s also good for people like me who have been around babies all our lives, because it will keep them laughing out loud, looking at babies in a way they’ve never quite looked at them before.

Copyright © 2004 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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