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A Spoonful of Sugar: A Nanny's Story Paperback – February 11, 2014

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (February 11, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307951294
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307951298
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #605,607 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

For readers accustomed to nanny exposés filled with snark, gossip, and bad behavior, Ashford’s memoir will indeed go down like a spoonful of sugar. The reference to Mary Poppins is apt, as Ashford, who trained as a nanny in the 1930s, is very much a character from another era. During 62 years of service to scores of British families, Ashford, now in her nineties, maintained an unflagging belief in establishing routine, setting a good example, and teaching proper manners. Though she chronicles the major social upheavals of her time—WWII, the sexual revolution, women’s liberation—Ashford is more witness than participant; everything else changes, but she remains the same. Outside of a failed romance or two, her world is confined to the nursery: babies and toddlers, changing nappies and giving cuddles. It’s a solitary and frequently lonely life, but in typical “stiff-upper-lip” fashion, she continually assures readers she’s happy with her lot. Ashford doesn’t offer much self-reflection, instead presenting a fascinating look at the evolution of child-rearing practices, for better or worse. --Patty Wetli --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"For anglophiles and Downton Abbey fans, a memoir of 62 years of nannying."
-The New York Times

"Ashford presents a delightful compilation of memories, child care tips and insights from a radically different time and place. . . .  A snapping good story by a true British treasure." -Kirkus Reviews

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Customer Reviews

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See all 19 customer reviews
The tips and recipes alone make for a great book.
And she tells her story with honesty, humor, and heart.
Ruth A. Hill
A lovely memoir that was a quick and enjoyable read.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As is my usual preamble, I received this book for the fat sum of exactly nothing because of a GoodReads giveaway. Despite that kind consideration my candid opinions follow.

The summary of this one is easy. Our author is 92 and for 62 of those years she has dedicated her life to taking care of children. In that time I daresay she's seen it and done it all and she shares some of those experiences and wisdom in her book.

My first concern on cracking open this book was that it would be rather whitewashed. When you liken your life to the story of Mary Poppins in your subtitle, this seems a fairly reasonable concern. I was delighted to see though that she does not take this tact. Most certainly her life was a primarily happy one dedicated to her craft but she's not afraid to share some of the darker times with her readers too. Her memoirs are refreshingly honest and complete. We're treated to the good and the bad, a life as balanced as any.

The second concern was that the author might be preachy but again, Ashford speaks with well-earned wisdom and she's not afraid to state an opinion but she is anything but preachy. Her delivery of parental correction is gentle, effective and well-practiced. She's like the benevolent grandparent that you listen to because they've been rearing children for three times longer than you've been alive. She clearly and emphatically points out examples of bad parenting but does so with a glowing benevolence that's hard to resist. This is the sort of person you'd like to sit down and talk to for months at a time.

In addition to sharing her life and her wisdom, our author also shares some recipes and provides us with a history lesson.
Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dina on April 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover
A Spoonful of Sugar is the charming memoir of a woman who has dedicated six decades to caring for other people's children. Brenda Ashford's story begins in the 1930s when she first discovers her calling in life. She loves children with a passion, and feels strongly about the proper ways to care for them. Love, of course, is the proverbial spoonful of sugar. Ms. Ashford believes that children are like plants, needing care and attention to blossom into the adults they have the potential to become. She has certainly earned her right to offer advice through her decades of experience with children and their families. Her writing is warm, intelligent and full of good humor, and she sounds like a person who remains young at heart, even at the age of 92.

Despite some unnecessary repetitions, I greatly enjoyed Ms. Ashford's book. It's an interesting reminder of how child rearing has changed over the past century and how it has stayed the same, as well as a glimpse into the fascinating life story of one wise nanny.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By William G. Schmidt on August 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Sometimes I read a book for no more than the warm, fuzzy feeling they give. That's part of the attraction of this book but it goes well beyond that. It's Child Care 101 through the advanced courses. If it's a bit dated and stiff in the British tradition, it's because we've lost some of the basics in our lives. Nanny Brenda Ashford, 92, looks back on a lifetime of children, of romances, of heartbreaks and laughs. She has a vivid, sharp memory. I'm sure any life she has touched has been changed forever. As I read this book, I kept thinking of another British institution - the Beatles - and they're famous words: All You Need is Love. That's the philosophy behind this book and Ashford's life. What better legacy could she leave those precious children she cared for?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Fenny @ Hotchpotch on April 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover
When you have trained in Britain's oldest nanny school and by draconian matrons of 1930s hospital wards, Hitler and his army hold no fear.

A Spoonful of Sugar is a charming memoir, giving insight not only in the work of a Norland nanny - considered THE best - but also in the British culture as well as family life in Britain during the war years.

In her 92 years Brenda has lived through much and has many a story to tell. Seemingly stand-offish and sometimes archaic (which I loved!) - as Brits are prone to be - it is clear that Brenda has a heart for her charges, without putting up with any nonsense. She has a clear view on how to raise children, being very firm in her convictions, but her understanding of present day challenges shines through again and again.

Pearls of wisdom - even if mostly from a bygone era, nevertheless still ring true for today - are shattered throughout the book. Each chapter starts with the text of a nursery rhymes, which is sweet and her schedule at that time, showing a nanny is always on call.

Developments around the country / world are placed within the context of her life, think of the changes in child care and care of/for pregnant women, the forming of national health care, the appearance of the ultrasound and the pill.

What I loved most was the particular British English expressions.

...cheek by bowl...
jolly well
... people rubbed along together nicely...
Tom had scuttled off.
oh, how marvelous!
...I don't give two hoots...
... the loveliest thing I had ever clapped my eyes on...
... we had a whale of a time...
oh, crumbs...

A lovely, delightful and marvelous read!
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