A Good Read: Healthy Child, Healthy World

I’m an information junkie. If I care about a topic, I read anything and everything I can find on the subject, sometimes to the point of obsession. So when the publishers of Healthy Child, Healthy World asked me if they could send me a copy of their new book to read and review, of course I jumped at the chance. The offer involved three of my favorite things – babies, the environment, and free stuff. Of course the publisher was looking for some publicity for the book and I’m happy to oblige, although I can tell you right now my buzz always includes the good, the bad and the ugly, as you shall see below.

I was skeptical at first glance of the book’s cover. In big bright letters at the top the cover announces “Foreword by Meryl Streep” and “With Contributions by Gwyneth Paltrow, Brooke Shields, Tom Hanks…” and the list of celebrities involved goes on and on. I am generally turned off by books that declare a list of celebrity endorsements. Call me a cynic but I want my information to come from experts in a field, not from celebrities with no related credentials beyond their fame.

So I definitely gagged more than once when reading some of the celebrity testimonials sprinkled throughout the book. For example, Tobey Maguire’s unimpressive contribution is that he is thinking about getting a refillable water bottle instead of drinking bottled water! Wha’? I’m supposed to be compelled by that? On the other hand I was duly inspired by Michelle Obama’s call for change in our health system, where she notes only 4 cents of every dollar is spent on prevention and public health. Others including Meryl Streep and Erin Brockovich made their own helpful contributions and I was actually glad they were involved in the project based on what they added.

Now that I’ve made clear what I didn’t like about the book, let me tell you what I did like. A lot actually. This book now holds a place of honor coveted by all other books in my house. It sits in a small pile of a few other favorites on the footstool in my study, a place reserved only for books I want to refer to often and don’t want to become lost in a bookshelf. I found Healthy Child, Healthy World, written by Christopher Gavigan of the non-profit by the same name, to be practical, helpful, inspiring and informative. The book demystifies the world of environmental awareness using science, experts and, sigh, celebrities. From craft supplies to cleaning supplies, it cuts through all the confusing information and advertising out there and boils it down to what you need to know to make informed decisions.

I also appreciated the practical advice to start making changes with the things I use a lot, such as food, and make switches in other areas later. Still at times the book felt overwhelming. After reading each chapter I could easily list half a dozen things I wanted to change right away. It was an easier read when I took it one chapter at a time and then put it away for a few days, which gave me time to process each chapter’s large volume of information.

I’ve read through the whole book once but have referred to it many times since and will continue to do so. I recommend you look it up and see if it can help you and your family live greener and healthier, hopefully more so than Mr. Maguire.

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