Book Review & Giveaway: A Spoonful of Sugar by Brenda Ashford


A Spoonful of Sugar Cover

Book Details

Genre: Memoir
Published by: Doubleday Publication
Publication Date: April 2, 2013
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 978-0385536417

Purchase Links:   

GIVEAWAY of one (1) physical copy to a US or Canadian resident.

Like my Facebook page to earn an entry to the giveaway. Write in the comments you did and under which name.

Giveaway runs till Monday April 22. Winner will be contacted by e-mail and will have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen. 

Source: Google Images of  London bus routemaster

Source: Google Images of London bus routemaster


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.

My Review

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!


Pearls of Wisdom from Brenda Ashford

“I had puzzled many times over the ingredients for a perfect recipe for a happy home. Throw in some stability, a dash of routine and respect. Sprinkle some fun and imaginative games and stir well. But the most vital ingredient is the mother. The mother is truly the heart and soul of a family.”

“As for fussy eaters? I don’t stand for it. I have taken a hard line on this topic. This is a home, not a restaurant and you will jolly well try it before you turn your nose up at it.”

“If a child has sufficient breakfast, lunch and dinner they shouldn’t need a snack. I don’t really like it today when I see children being wheeling along in a pram stuffing things in their mouth. ”

“Children cannot get up to your level, so you have to get down to theirs; try and understand how the world looks through their eyes.”

“If we respect little people then they in turn will grow up to respect others.”

“Put a book in a child’s hands or plant them in an empty field or park, and suddenly the world opens up and becomes a fantastical place of make believe and adventure.”

“Never let a house define you. You can make a home anywhere from an air raid shelter to a shed, if you have to. Riches and wealth don’t matter a jot.”

“I was always honest with my charges. In fact in every area of my life I have been most careful to never tell a lie. Why can’t everyone be more careful to tell the truth? At least we would all know where we stand in life.”

“Little folk deserve a childhood that’s full of fun. It’s the single most valuable lesson in my eyes. I have always encouraged children to have a giggle wherever and whenever they can.”

PEARLS OF WISDOM Strung Together During 60 Years of Devoted Service as a Nanny

Author Bio

Brenda Ashford

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. Now 92, Brenda came out of retirement at 80 years of age to take care of her 2 special ‘grand charges’. She lives presently outside London.

Providence Book Promotions

PBPButtonFounded in 2012, Providence Book Promotions offers virtual book tour services for both well established and best-selling authors, as well as those just starting out with their careers. PBP prides itself on its tailored packages for authors, with a personal touch from the tour coordinators. Both Cheryl and Gina are wonderful to work with – if you like to review different type of fiction books, sign up here!


Every (e-)book received for review on the tours for Providence Book Promotions is given in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this post are my own.

6 responses »

    • aw, thank you for the compliment, Cheryltje! May I ask what makes it extraordinary in your opinion? A curious mind want to know (so I can be extraordinary all the time :-) )

  1. Hi, Thanks very much for the review and giveaway of this excellent-looking memoir. Brenda Ashford seems like just the kind of person I’d like to sit and have a nice chat with. I’d love to get a copy of her book. I’ve liked the Facebook page to enter the draw. (Carl Scott)

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