In Small Animals, Brooks asks, Of all the emotions inherent in parenting, is there any more universal or profound than fear? Why have our notions of what it means to be a good parent changed so radically? In what ways do these changes impact the lives of parents, children, and the structure of society at large? And what, in the end, does the rise of fearful parenting tell us about ourselves?
In Small Animals, Brooks seeks not to defend herself or walk readers through the grueling years of court dates, panic and punishment that followed that sunny March day. Instead, she explores the 'why' of it all ... Brooks explores both the legal and cultural forces shaping American parenting, fearlessly and brilliantly illuminating the influences of the media, socioeconomic class and the watchful gaze of other parents ... Reading Small Animals feels like enjoying a particularly stimulating conversation with a friend over coffee. Brooks does not whine, cajole or beg; she simply asks the questions ... Refreshingly, Brooks is not afraid to confront her own privilege ... Brooks does speak to women of different races and classes, but does not claim to be able to tell their stories ... What she can do, and has done beautifully in Small Animals, is ask her readers to give mothers the right to be rational.
Small Animals interrogates how we weigh risk as parents, how we judge one another’s parenting and what the costs might be — not just to parents, but to children, too — of a culture of constant surveillance ... At times, Brooks’s summaries of academic thought can seem dutiful and rushed; she’s best when she takes the time to digest the material and present her own insights.
Parents will flock to read the first nonfiction book from Brooks ... [Small Animals is an] engaging account of life as a modern-day parent blends memoir and her research from interviews with other parents, psychiatrists, and parenting experts ... arents will see themselves in Brooks’ personal account of parenting and may relate to the dramatic experience from her own life that frames the book ... Parents who are seeking advice, rather than reflection, will appreciate the vast number of other titles Brooks cites throughout the book. Small Animals belongs on the shelves of every public library.