Please Don’t Eat the Daisies is the first of Jean Kerr’s collections of articles previously published separately in magazines prior to being collected in book form. (Incidentally, this is the one which includes the article in which she mentions her friend’s success in maintaining rug cleanliness in the face of rambunctious children by purchasing a Coca-cola colored rug, but admits ruefully she could not do the same as she couldn’t find one to match all the things her sons spill in the course of a day.)
There’s no unifying theme, here or (IIRC) in the later books, The Snake Has All the Lines, Penny Candy, and How I Got to be Perfect. The chapters/articles in Please Don’t Eat the Daisies ranges from the trials of attempting to raise four active boys under the age of 8 to how to behave in order to impress play producers/directors (order a drink, but don’t actually drink it). While I quite like “The Kerr-Hilton” article, on purchasing the second worst house in Larchmont because it was the only thing in their price range which would allow bedrooms for the boys over here at this end of the house and a master bedroom for the parents over there at that end of the house…only to have half of it burn down shortly before the closing day when they officially took possesion, I loved “Aunt Jean’s Marshmallow Fudge Diet”, in which she writes a paean to the joys of NOT dieting oneself to a pencil’s diameter in order to please one’s husband, as she guessed that husbands would prefer wives who were not only happy but a bit plump.
As a bit of biographical background, in case readers couldn’t guess from some of the articles collected in this book), Jean Kerr was married to Walter Kerr, the playwright and critic, and indeed she wrote/produced several plays with him during their marriage in addition to raising the family and developing her own separate writing career. As a side note, they moved in next to the Killileas, who wrote Karen, and With Love from Karen about their struggles to find proper therapy for their daughter with CP….and who purchased the house in worst condition, based on the relative descriptions.
As with all humor, tastes vary–not only between individuals but between decades. Jean Kerr’s books were wildly popular in the ’60s, though I’m not sure how many people not alive at the time are aware of her writing. I like them, though not as much as when I was in college, and I hope that I’ve piqued the interest of those who haven’t heard of her or reminded people who once knew of her to pick them up again.
What to read next? Perhaps Erma Bombeck, as she also wrote collections of humorous essays about home life. Perhaps Betty MacDonald’s biographies, as she wrote in approximately the same time period, though slightly earlier. I’d toss in also Helter Shelter, by Combs; her familial autobiography was written about twenty years later about a different part of the country, but has the episodic lighthearted quality.