With Mother's Day dawning this Sunday (May 10), moms can glean advice, solace and even a few chuckles from the following trio of new books:

by Mary C. Hickey and Sandra Salmans

Here is just the handbook for Hillary Clinton and the other 21.5 million working American mothers who chose not to "stay home and bake cookies" all day. This is not about the bakery goodies you tried to pass off at your child's recital as "homemade"; we are talking about big-time GUILT. Read it. Recognize yourselves and laugh out loud.

Authors Hickey and Salmans, working mothers themselves, have written an acerbic and helpful book, aptly subtitled Whatever You're Doing, It Isn't Enough. It explores the guilt that every working mother feels about her children, her boss, her coworkers, her neighbors, her baby-sitter and herself. It also dispenses tips on how to avoid being shunted to the corporate mommy track. (Don't ever let on that you have to leave the office to see a school play.)

The authors get deliciously wicked on such subjects as the "Supermom" ("She still has angst about the time she put bottled mayonnaise in her New Potato Salad"), the "Stay-At-Home Mom" ("Don't ever say anything that indicates you think her mind has turned to Jell-O....") and on "Why Men Don't Feel Guilty" (their fathers didn't).

Those women who have grown frazzled trying to juggle their acts can take heart from this clever primer: "Even though you might not be Doing it All, you're Doing an Awful Lot." (Penguin, paper, $8.95)

by Marguerite Kelly and Elia Parsons

A first impression of this book is similar to that of a child confronted with cod liver oil: yuck! The authors' tone is clearly meant to be charming and comforting, however it frequently seems coy and intrusive. But upon more careful scrutiny, any mom should find The Mother's Almanac a sensible companion on the sometimes bumpy journey of bringing up baby (the advice ranges from pregnancy to age 6).

The book offers a broad array of practical advice on such topics as setting up a baby-sitters co-op, child-proofing your house, coping with tantrums, bringing an unruly 18-month-old into line ("By mid-One, the bloom of rosy motherhood gets paler every day, and it's time for some negative discipline. Corners must have been invented for this"). Kelly and Parsons also offer creative tips on Gardening with a toddler, cooking eggs Benedict with a 6-year-old, crafts, science experiments and more. In fact, there appears to be only one piece of vital advice that is missing from The Mother's Almanac. And that is, how Mother can get more sleep. (Doubleday, $16)

by Sonia Taitz

The good news: Taitz is an incisive, funny writer. "In the 50's and 60's," she notes, "wives were—had to be—pie bakers, martini makers, June Cleavers (named, perhaps for her repressed anger)." The not-so-good news: Mothering Heights, a serio-comic pre-and post-partum polemic directed at the hordes of "expert" who have taken motherhood hostage, is often too precious for words.

It's tough to dispute Taitz's contention that baby workout tapes, baby workout classes and baby massage are idiotic. It's difficult not to share her rage at the pressure to ""stimulate baby to a fare-thee-well and to provide baby with homemade, hand-mashed delicacies; not to share her bewilderment at the conflicting advice handed out to mothers by the stroller load. But after a point, Mothering Heights, whose often repeated thesis is delivered with the subtlety of a slap in the face, becomes as exasperating as the books and experts it so appropriately assails. (Morrow, $20)

by Cari Beauchamp and Henri Béhar

No wonder most of us perceive the Cannes Film Festival, which opens this week (May 7), as mere frivolous display. As far back as 1954, we were made aware of French starlet Simone Sylva delighting paparazzi (and startling the adjacent Robert Mitchum) by baring her breasts; in 1991 we beheld Madonna, in her pointy bra, creating an avalanche of publicity for Truth or Dare.

But business, not bosoms, is what this May fortnight is truly about. Seventy percent of U.S. film revenue can come from overseas markets, say the authors, and Cannes is the No. 1 international marketplace. Within "a 10-block strip bordering the Mediterranean, 30,000 people [converge] to see and be seen, buy and be bought, sell and be sold, review and be reviewed, promote and be promoted."

Beauchamp and Béhar, both seasoned in public relations and entertainment journalism, appear to have interviewed, year after year, most of those 30,000 annual visitors—actors, producers, publicists, exhibitors, reporters. The resulting flood of facts and reminiscences reveals the frenetic forces at work in Cannes: the deal-making, star-hyping, film-and juror-picking and the judging process itself.

Hollywood on the Riviera offers more gossip than most readers may want. A 1967 scandal (juror Shirley MacLaine "embarked on a very public, torrid love affair" with Bekim Fehmiu, star of the year's Grand Special Jury prizewinner, I Even Met Happy Gypsies) is a major item, and it is of some interest that "marriages and long-term relationships that have started in Cannes [include those of] Rita Hayworth and Aly Khan. Olivia DeHavilland and Picric Galante. Melina Mercouri and Jules Dassin...Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier."

But does anyone need to know that Mary Beth Hurt, shopping for her baby, found "trés cher but trés chic outfits at the children's stores," that the Globe and Mail's film critic Jay Scott "always stocks up on French underwear," that actor Nick (Wild at Heart) Cage's publicist "was desperate to find a place for him to buy a leather jacket"?

Hollywood on the Riviera's lengthy appendices—festival rules, year-by-year lists of jurors and winners—are of value to serious film buffs. Fun seekers are advised that this book is like a collection of gossip columns. It reads best just a bit at a time. (Morrow, $25)

by Sheila MacRae with H. Paul Jeffers

From MY diary: I've been chosen 'Hollywood Mother of the Year.' My marriage is a shambles! My Gordon, my darling, is a total addict. Both liquor and pills...He's given up on AA—and on me, too, I fear."

So Sheila MacRae begins this giddy, startling and often moving book. Gordon is actor-singer Gordon MacRae, best known for his starring roles in such films as Oklahoma! and Carousel. The MacRaes wed in 1941, had four children, divorced in 1967; he died of cancer, at 64, in 1986. Drinking and gambling had ruined his career, but those early film roles, his loyal ex-wife tells us, "bestowed upon Gordon MacRae a grace, which we all seek and hope for. Immortality."

Well, maybe. But this is her story, not his—the lively account of a promising young actress who devoted herself to raising children and coping with a drunkard husband, while making a career of her own. (Sheila starred from 1966 to 1967 in The Honey moaners with Jackie Gleason and had her own syndicated TV talk show in 1971.)

She is more than candid about her private life. "We had sex everywhere," she says of the early years with Gordon, "under a blanket in Long Island Railroad coaches...on boats...in his dressing room at Warner's...He referred to me as 'my wife the nymphomaniac'...sex became my obsession."

Many men, however, misperceived Sheila's affectionate nature. Gary Cooper's wife, Rocky, told her at a party that "one of the Hakim brothers, foreign movie producers," desired a tryst. (" 'You may tell him I have several good reasons not to accept their offer,' I replied. 'My children, Gordon, my self-esteem.' ") She rejected Henry Fonda, Peter Sellers and JFK's telephoned invitation to lunch at the White House (" 'Just the two of us. Very, uh, discreet. Quite, uh, intimate' "). And when LBJ took her into an upstairs bedroom after a While House gala (" 'This is where your President sleeps.... Come away from that door and come sit by me, darlin' ' "). she rebuffed him as frostily as she had the Hakims: " 'Mr. President...you may not believe this, but it has been interesting.' "

Frank Sinatra did not get turned down, nor did Bob Fosse, Albert Finney and a dazzling lover identified as JP (for "Jewish Prince of Comedy").

A second marriage to TV producer Ron Wayne, soon after the divorce from Gordon, didn't last. But at 68, Sheila is working now, most recently on TV's General Hospital, and it's hard to believe this energetic, upbeat woman won't continue to find excitement. Hollywood Mother of the Year includes a sample of her poetry, a melancholy lament that includes the couplet: "Spilling sands in the hourglass still/ Every grain I wail immobile."

What could daunt a woman who can rhyme like that? (Birch Lane, $19.95)

  • Contributors:
  • Garry Clifford,
  • Joanne Kaufman,
  • Jeff Brown.