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A Spoonful of Sugar: A Nanny's Story

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  783 ratings  ·  181 reviews
From Britain's beloved oldest living nanny comes a charming and uplifting memoir of a real-life Mary Poppins.

In her extraordinary memoir, Brenda Ashford shares her endearing and amusing experiences as a British nanny caring for generations of children over the past sixty-two years.

Brenda's lifelong love for children began the minute she laid eyes on her baby brother, David
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published April 2nd 2013 by Doubleday (first published June 1st 2012)
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Average rating 3.81  · 
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Apr 14, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommended to Caroline by: Carrie
I wish this book had a different title, and I wish there had been a bit less sugar sprinkled over Brenda Ashford’s story of her 60 years working as a nanny. Having said that, I come from an era where the idea of 'unconditional love' carries enormous kudos – and I don’t think I have encountered anyone who practiced it better that Ms Ashford.

Her love for children just flows out of every page – be they the orphan-like offspring of British aristocracy, or unwashed nit-infested tykes from the East En
Linda C
Jun 12, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2013
Oh, dear! Criticizing this book feels a bit like criticizing Great Aunt Millie. Although I am very impressed that the author worked as a nanny for over 60 years and was able to get a book published at 92, that doesn't necessarily mean that it's a well-written book. Which is a shame, because with either a better editor or a ghost writer, Miss Ashford's memoir could have been a very good book.

She certainly had an extraordinary life, during a period of history when the world changed dramatically. P
Sep 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Maybe it is due to my postpartum state, but I found this 90 year old's memoirs of being a nanny to be charming.
"Give them your undivided attention; laugh and join in, and they will love you for it. Their childhood will last that much longer, too."
Rob Slaven
Mar 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 whitewas
From the very start of the Spoonful of Sugar, I found Brenda Ashford to be an inspirational lady, I could not wait to read on...

Heartwarming and Heartbreaking.
As the words and pages past me by, I could not help but feel that warm feeling inside, I think to be one of the many people Brenda has touch would surely be a blessing. Reading these words made my heart swell with such admiration and hope. If I am fortunate enough to make it that far in years, I could only hope to be as blessed as her.

May 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: four-star
A sweet memoir by ninety year old Brenda detailing her six plus decades working as a Norland Nanny, from her days training at the renowned institute and throughout the difficult war years.

Her dedication to her work is truly evident as is her love and affection for her many children. There are some beautiful and sorrowful stories told here. Sadly Brenda never married or had her own babies but still looks back on her life feeling happy and content with so many years of nannying others children.

Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
Two and a half stars. I really can't give it three, though if it had continued to be as interesting as the first quarter of the text it would have been a solid four. The story of her training etc was interesting, but even then she would make a "teaser" statement and give the impression it would be discussed (such as when she speaks of hurrying through an air-raid with a baby in her arms, or "dodging shrapnel") and then--nothing; the anecdote is never told, or told in such a superficial and gener ...more
Aug 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Always interested in non-fiction, history of ordinary people, and children psychology, I am in heaven here!

The author has been for more than 60 years a nanny in the UK. Trained during the 30's, her carreer starts just before the second world war. She recalls her own childhood and then describes her story as a Norland trained nanny. With passion and a great sense of humour and lvoe for the children she cares for, she writes about her 'ordinary' life, her chores, her employers. She provides a goo
Elizabeth Evans
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Having been a nanny myself (but not trained at one of the most prestigious nanny-training schools in the world!) I really enjoyed this book. I can't say it was written as literature, but I could sure hear Brenda's voice in her words. She trained as a Norland Nanny, (yes, they're still around!) which places nannies with the royal family and other members of the glitterati. Uniforms, hats, gloves, learning how to smock (!) and how to wash laundry by hand (surely not any more?): it's all there. Bre ...more
Jul 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: wackynonfiction
What a sweet memoir. Nanny Brenda Ashford was trained as a nanny by the prestigious school of nanneries (my word) Norland College. Beginning her professional career based on an intense and innocent love of babies in 1939, she trained in all aspects of child-rearing with an emphasis on love over corporal punishment. She was a nanny for children for more than 60 years. During that time, she had bouts of falling in love with men, but her true love was always the children she cared for at work.

Angela Holland
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was one of the best books I have read this year or should I say listened to. Of course I liked the narrator as she had an English accent which I could listen to all day long. It was interesting to not only hear about Brenda's adventures as a Nanny but to hear how she views changes of her time as a nanny and how a nanny's position is today. I also enjoyed hearing about her personal life and her younger years. There was one part that brought tears to my eyes and I have a lot of respect for he ...more
Jan 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed this memoir written by a 92 year old British woman looking back on her life of service as a nanny. Lots of personal advice and tips. Fascinating accounts of life in WWII among refugees and evacuees.
Angie Rizzo
Mar 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A truly amazing book! Miss Ashford's wonderful story of her life as nanny and all her sweet little stories of the children she has watched. The history during her time of work and how she incorporated important historical events that happened, made the book ten times more interesting!
Lily Baker
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book a lot. I don't think I have ever read a Nanny story, and if I have it was nothing like this one. I recommend this book to anyone who likes, and enjoys children.😊
Aug 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Loved this! Her writing was beautifully descriptive and her stories so interesting and inspiring.
Mar 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
It's obvious from the title and the first paragraph of the synopsis that comparisons are being made between Brenda Ashford and Mary Poppins. Having just read P. L. Travers' classic story of the nanny that Disney called "practically perfect in every way" I can tell you, Brenda Ashford is not Mary Poppins. She's better. The Mary Poppins of Travers' book really isn't a nanny I would have wanted. Mary is sharp-tongued and vain and while she may love the children underneath all that--it certainly isn ...more
May 27, 2016 rated it it was ok
Audio book.

You get what you expect from this book. Old lady with old values. For instance she thinks the Victorian level of morality and formality, e.g. the traditional insistence on special uniforms went possibly a bit too far. Possibly a bit. Yet she's gung ho about never saying No to a kid. She never notices the paradox of being strict and controlling w kids and schedules (and with adults acting proper in society), yet encouraging kids to flourish by not restricting them (and allowing herself
Devon Steven
Feb 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
*I received a copy of this book via Goodreads' First Read program*

While the book was a bit slow to set off, I found myself quickly immersed in Brenda Ashford's life as a mid-century British nanny. I was impressed by how well Ms. Ashford writes, given her age, and how modern she could seem at times. From time to time, her old-fashioned ways did shine through, but I rarely felt that she was being pedantic or looking down on modern child-rearing. She's by no means an expert on childcare, and nor do
Feb 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book was a nice, feel-good read. The author, Brenda Ashford, is 92 year old woman who was a nanny for over 100 children during her long career. The book follows Ashford through childhood, to Norland College and into the world of being a nanny. I don't have children, but I found this book interesting and heartwarming. Ashford cares so much for children and loved her job so much; this comes through on almost every page of this charming memoir.

While the first half of the book followed consecu
May 29, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
This memoir was written by a 92 year old nanny who spent over 60 years tending to Britain's children. It was a little cloying at times and geez, the author sure thinks she knows how to solve every child's problem (love, fresh air and getting down on their level), but I enjoyed the stories of her family and her time in service. She was obviously devoted to her charges and is in touch with quite a few. Her chapters about taking care of refugee children and working in a national day care during WWI ...more
Dec 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
This charming memoir details the sixty year career of a British nanny, ala Mary Poppins. She discusses being a nanny during WWII all the way through the early 2000's, including the funny and tragic things she witnessed. Each chapter starts with a testimonial from the previous chapter's clients, a recipe, some wisdom for parents, and a recipe and schedule. I found it interesting and charming. I think perhaps it was originally a series of essays because it often repeats things the reader already k ...more
Jean Mays
May 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant! While I don't agree with her views on discipline, I couldn't agree more with her perspective on the need to help children develop creativity and how modern technology often crushes that process. She wisely encourages parents to embrace the "I'm bored" from their children because THAT is when creative play is born. Yes!! Be the adult people. I think all young mothers should read this book.
Feb 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
True story that chronicles the childcare provided by a professional nanny for decades from the 1930s onward. Historical context was illuminating on how children were viewed and cared for in Great Britain especially during WWII. While it is repetitive at times, I enjoyed hearing the 90 something author read her story.
Jan 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. I've also learnt a lot from it, for example, I had never heard of Norland Nannies. I very nearly cried here and there but I loved it all the same. Brenda is so very courageous and the children all sound so sweet, especially the Bethnal Greenies. Definitely recommended.
Aug 15, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: adultnon-fiction
Shoot, I want to hire this 92 year-old nanny stat! Despite the plethora of child-rearing techniques today, her basic philosophy of showing a child love, undivided attention, and respect are timeless.
Mary Kenyon
Oct 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Mary by: Angela Shere
Of course I loved this. The nanny's voice was much like that of my mother's. A non-nonsense approach to loving children, advice for child-rearing, and a wonderful story.
I came across a Spoonful of Sugar accidentally, when searching for an item that would fulfill my reading challenge of a title involving the word "sugar," that would also be available from my library on audio. When I read the brief description of this book, I was immediately charmed enough to check it out, and I was not disappointed. Brenda Ashford was a British nanny, trained by the (apparently) exclusive Norland Institute, who served as a nanny for over 62 years. This is her story of her life a ...more
Mar 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was a fun read. Ms. Brenda Ashford wrote this book at age 92. It includes intricate detail about the work she did as a nanny in England for 62 years, including the years when she cared for the children who were evacuated from London during WWII. She never married or had children of her own. She tried romantic love a few times, and it didn’t work, so she found joy in raising other people’s children as her own. It’s pretty darling how much pride she took in the work of baking, teaching, lovin ...more
Jul 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Enjoyable memoir of an English nanny who started working in 1938 and continued working until her retirement in her early 70's when she went to go live with her retired midwife sister. The book definitely gives off a Call the Midwife vibe. Nurse Brenda worked in a wide variety of situations - long term employment in private homes, running a government daycare for women working during WW2 in factories, caring for London evacuees during the Blitz, helping new mothers as a newborn nurse, working in ...more
May 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Rather than being sugary sweet, this was a fascinating , truly written memoir of a woman in an occupation that we hear little about but that has really again come into its own as women try to manage motherhood and work ....being a nanny .Brenda is 92 at the end of the book and sees her 60 years of caring for children as a calling rather than an occupation. She takes us through WW2 and the care of evacuee children. She wants love in her life and a family of her own but neither is to be and she ta ...more
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