In theory, Cookie is a darn-tootin' super idea for a publication. Take the kid-rearing tracts of years past, subtract the housewife stereotypes, add pinches of personality and pizzazz, and voilà: a mommy mag for the new millennium.

In execution, however, the mag plays much more like a cleverly veiled Lucky than anything boasting the tagline "all the best for your family" should. Cookie is no more about what's best for one's family than "The Empire Strikes Back" is about the feasibility of interplanetary travel. It's a mommy product bible, plain and simple, and the mag's attempts to camouflage this via cover lines like "Sneak In Whole Wheat: Get Your Kids to Go With the Grain" and "How to Temper the Tantrum" come across as wildly disingenuous. Basically, it's false advertising.

You can't fault the mag's creative team. On the design front, Cookie trumps just about every one of the 130-odd magazines I've reviewed in this space. Lisbeth Svarling's half-scrawled illustrations invest both the mom/kid horoscope page and "fight cub" tantrum-tempering piece with clever quirk, while the house-of-cards layout for the item on birth announcements breathes personality into a ho-hum topic. The photo spreads alternate between blissed-out beach shots and shimmery scenes from family get-togethers; not a single photo in the May/June issue feels posed.

Cookie also sweats the small stuff. For its editorial masthead, the mag arranges names in clock-like fashion around the big blue "O" of its logo. Never mind that the "O" more closely resembles a donut or a bagel than a cookie--such bursts of whimsy in unexpected places are Cookie's creative calling card.

No matter how sharp the layouts may look, however, they can't overcome the mag's slavish worship at the altar of commerce. There are watches with "sleek monochromatic faces" and "breezy" canvas bags and balms for "stressed skin" and makeup "tiny treats" and a whole lot of other crap that could just as easily have been plucked from Harper's Bazaar. That the mag won't rate a book or DVD lower than "not for all tastes, but worth a look" renders its reviews entirely moot. And apparently one of the six best ways to "preserve childhood ephemera with your own aesthetic" is to buy vintage T-shirts for your kids. Okay, then.

Most deceptive are the two pages of "{Cookie Cravings}," in which a bunch of products are showcased in typically sprightly layouts and accompanied by the usual moms-are-fab text. Only if you're paying attention--and gosh, that's why I'm here--do you notice the six-point, thin-fonted "Advertisement" in the way-upper-left-hand corner. At least the other advertorial pages highlight a company logo for all to see.

The irony is that Cookie does quite well for itself when it downplays the product whoring. The first-person piece on the decision to have a second child offers both wit and warmth, while the how-tos (on fostering solid grandparent-parent-child relationships and diminishing the frequency and intensity of toddler tantrums) convey smart tips in refreshingly to-the-point form.

But these moments are neutralized by Cookie's tendency to out-cute itself way too often. I'm willing to entertain any/all theories as to why a stat about the percentage of body weight gained by male marmosets during their partner's pregnancy belongs anywhere near this publication. A Q&A with a six-year-old "poet," a few lines from the Oregon state song... the ever-so-precious vibe gets grating really quick, and that's before the mag ranks "You Can't Always Get What You Want" among the "Ten Grown-Up Songs to Download For Your Kid." I understand the inclusion of "Octopus' Garden" and "Shiny Happy People" (though the latter makes me want to break things), but doesn't Mr. Jagger sing of a gal who "was practiced at the art of deception/I could tell by her blood-stained hands"? Whatever.

In the title's online media kit, Cookie's bakers blab that, philosophically, they believe that "being a good parent and maintaining your sense of style are not mutually exclusive." That may be true in reality, but in the magazine world, products and parents don't mix at least nowhere near as seamlessly as Cookie would have you believe. Until the publication decides to emphasize one or the other, it will remain an irritatingly schizophrenic read.

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