Picks and Pans Review: The Nanny Diaries

updated 03/25/2002 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/25/2002 AT 01:00 AM EST

By Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

Whip-smart, responsible and utterly devoted to kids—what's not to love about a nanny like that? The possibility that she might write a fictional satire like this one, that's what. Mining from their combined eight years as child-care providers for a series of Manhattan families in the 1990s, McLaughlin, 28, and Kraus, 27, have produced a hilarious, scathing tale of upper-crust child-rearing practices that must have their former employers squirming.

The novel's heroine, a 21-year-old simply called Nanny, is hired to care part time for Grayer X, an under-loved 4-year-old. In addition to shepherding Grayer from French lessons to music appreciation class and preparing coquilles St. Jacques for his supper, Nanny soon finds herself organizing his stay-at-home mom's frantic social schedule and wondering what to do once she discovers that Mr. X, a master-of-the-universe type, is having an affair.

The Xes are too one-dimensionally awful to seem real, but the authors manage a poignant, nuanced portrayal of Grayer, a sweetly funny boy so hungry for his father's presence that he carries Mr. X's tattered business card with him everywhere. It is for Grayer that Nanny stays (until Mrs. X tires of her and shows her the door). And it is for Grayer's alter egos in New York City and elsewhere that the parents who probably won't read this book really should. (St. Martin's, $24.95)

Bottom Line: Nanny knows best

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