A Spoonful of Sugar

Brenda Ashford

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (April 2, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385536410
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385536417

About the book . . . 

Brenda Ashford is the quintessential British nanny. Prim and proper, gentle and kind, she seems to have stepped straight out of Mary Poppins. For more than six decades Nanny Brenda swaddled, diapered, dressed, played with, sang to, cooked for, and looked after more than one hundred children. From the pampered sons and daughters of lords ensconced in their grand estates to the children of tough war evacuees in London’s East End, Brenda has taught countless little ones to be happy, healthy, and thoroughly well bred. In this delightful memoir, Brenda shares her endearing, amusing, and sometimes downright bizarre experiences turning generations of children into successful adults.

From the moment Brenda first held her baby brother David she was hooked. She became a second mother to him, changing his nappies, reading him stories, and giving him all the love her warm heart contained. Knowing a career caring for children was her calling in life, Brenda attended London’s prestigious Norland College, famous for producing top-notch nannies. It was a sign of privilege and good taste for the children of the well-to-do to be seen being pushed in their Silver Cross prams by Norland nannies, who were recognizable by their crisp, starched black uniforms with white bib collars, and their flowing black capes lined with red silk. And what skills were these trainees tested on daily? Lullaby singing, storytelling, pram shining, bed making, all forms of sewing, cooking simple meals, and dispensing first aid—including knowing the best way to help the medicine go down.

In A Spoonful of Sugar, Brenda recalls her years at Norland and her experiences during the war (after all, even if bombs are dropping, there’s no reason to let standards slip), and recounts in lovely detail a life devoted to the care of other people’s children.

Sprinkled throughout with pearls of wisdom (you can never give children too much love, and you should learn how to sew a button, for goodness’ sake), this delightful memoir from Britain’s oldest living nanny is practically perfect in every way. 

About the author . . . 

Brenda Ashford is a graduate of Norland College, a world-famous institute for British nannies. For sixty-two years, she cared for more than one hundred children, making her Britain’s longest-serving nanny. She lives outside London.  

Reader review . . . 

As a Norland nanny, Brenda Ashford cared for British children for sixty-two years.  Her memoir begins with her happy childhood, telling how her parents created a happy home for Brenda and her siblings.  After studying at Norland College, she began her career as a nanny and helped to take care of refugee children during World War II.  After the war, her career continued to flourish with her excellent reputation.  
Her stories are fascinating as she shares her love for the children, as well as the idiosyncrasies of the families who employed her.  As one would expect, after a career of that length, she has many interesting anecdotes.  Reading this, I envision her as the sweet grandmother or great-aunt everyone wants and needs. 
The layout of the book also adds a nice touch.  Each chapter begins with her daily schedule for the time period in discussion and ends with the testimonial of the family, along with parenting tips and recipes mentioned in the chapter.  The tips and recipes alone make for a great book.
Admittedly, I love memoirs/ biographies, so my opinion could be biased.  So, even though the Disney song “A Spoonful of Sugar” has been stuck in my head for days, I strongly recommend this one.
5 stars and cuddles

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the NetGalley book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”