Skip to main content
Displaying 1 of 1
Love
2018
Please select and request a specific volume by clicking one of the icons in the 'Find It' section below.
Find It
Map It
Large Cover Image
Trade Reviews

  New York Times Review

#+ |9781101947296 ~ at age 3, before she could write by hand, Barbara Newhall Follett was banging out words on her parents' Corona. Her first book, a lyrical romp about a child runaway, came out in 1927 when she was 12. The Saturday Review of Literature called it "almost unbearably beautiful," and this newspaper deemed it "wonderful." A second book, based on her adventures at sea, earned more accolades just a little over a year later. But at age 15, Follett was arrested in San Francisco after fleeing the suffocating plans of her mother. "I felt I had to have my freedom," she told a reporter. A decade later, Follett walked out of the apartment she was sharing with her husband in Brookline, Mass., evidently seeking freedom once more, this time from her marriage. She was never heard from again. Child prodigies are exotic creatures, each unique and inexplicable. But they have a couple of things in common, as Ann Hulbert's meticulous new book, "Off the Charts," makes clear: First, most Wunderkinds eventually experience some kind of schism with a devoted and sometimes domineering parent. "After all, no matter how richly collaborative a bond children forge with grown-up guides, some version of divorce is inevitable," Hulbert writes. "It's what modern experts would call developmentally appropriate." Second, most prodigies grow up to be thoroughly unremarkable on paper. They do not, by and large, sustain their genius into adulthood. What happens to alter the trajectory of shooting stars like Follett? In "Off the Charts," Hulbert attempts to capture the complicated lives of child prodigies without descending into voyeurism or caricature. She has tried to "listen hard for the prodigies' side of the story," to her great credit. This is an arduous task, and it sometimes shows in the writing, which can be stilted in its reliance on quotes and documentation. But Hulbert's diligence results in a surprising payoff: The best advice for managing a child prodigy may be a wise strategy for parenting any child, including the many, many nonbrilliant ones. Hulbert, The Atlantic's literary editor, wrote her last book, "Raising America," about the tortured history of parenting advice. So she is appropriately wary of preachy morality tales. "My goal isn't to pile on the stark cautionary fare. Nor am I aiming to crack some 'talent code,"' she writes in the prologue for "Off the Charts," to our great relief. Instead, she tries to place each of the boys and girls featured in the book in a specific time and place; their celebrity reveals much about their particular moment in American history. For example, Bobby Fischer's chess prowess might not have been impressive enough for adults to overlook his breathtaking egotism - but for the launching of Sputnik and America's anxiety about creeping Soviet domination in education and science. One era's prodigy is another's anonymous misfit. The book begins with the story of two gifted boys who attended Harvard at the same time, in the early 1900s. Norbert Wiener, a budding philosopher and mathematician, was 14, and William Sidis, a star in linguistics and mathematics, was only 11. They were not friends, which was a shame. Both suffered under the weight of their elders' intellectual expectations, combined with the impossibility of fitting in as boys among men. They were told they were superior, but then punished if they acted like it. Their identities depended on superhuman smarts, which made any academic failure feel like a knife to the heart. Wiener would struggle with depression for the rest of his life, but he did manage to eventually find professional fulfillment at M.I.T., where he helped invent the field of cybernetics. Sidis was not so successful; after fleeing a criminal charge related to a political protest, he did low-level accounting work in New York. He continued to alienate others with his stubborn arrogance before dying at 46 of a cerebral hemorrhage. What would have helped these boys and the other struggling prodigies in this book? Maybe nothing. But after poring over their words and stories, Hulbert has concluded that they might all offer parents similar advice: Accept who they are. That doesn't mean protecting them from failure or stress; quite the opposite. "What they want, and need, is the chance to obsess on their own idiosyncratic terms - to sweat and swerve, lose their balance, get their bearings, battle loneliness, discover resilience," Hulbert writes. Interestingly, this is the same advice contemporary psychologists tend to give to all parents, not just the parents of prodigies. Parents must hold children accountable and help them thrive, which is easier said than done; but if they try to re-engineer the fundamentals of their offspring, they will fail spectacularly, sooner or later. And this lesson is particularly obvious in the extremes. "Extraordinary achievement, though adults have rarely cared to admit it, takes a toll," Hulbert writes. "It demands an intensity that rarely makes kids conventionally popular or socially comfortable. But if they get to claim that struggle for mastery as theirs, in all its unwieldiness, they just might sustain the energy and curiosity that ideally fuels such a quest." THE SPECIAL CHALLENGE for prodigies IS that they are exceptional in more ways than one. "Genius is an abnormality, and abnormalities do not come one at a time," explains Veda Kaplinsky, a longtime teacher of gifted students, in Andrew Solomon's "Far From the Tree," a book that is cited by Hulbert. "Many gifted kids have A.D.D. or O.C.D. or Asperger's. When the parents are confronted with two sides of a kid, they're so quick to acknowledge the positive, the talented, the exceptional; they are often in denial over everything else." The very traits that make prodigies so successful in one arena - their obsessiveness, a stubborn refusal to conform, a blistering drive to win - can make them pariahs in the rest of life. Whatever else they may say, most teachers do not in fact appreciate creativity and critical thinking in their own students. "Off the Charts" is jammed with stories of small geniuses being kicked out of places of learning. Matt Savage spent two days in a Boston-area Montessori preschool before being expelled. Thanks to parents who had the financial and emotional resources to help him find his way, he is now, at age 25, a renowned jazz musician. Interestingly, some prodigies may actually do better when their eccentricities are seen by loving adults as disabilities first - and talents second. Hulbert tells the story of Jacob Barnett, born in 1998, who withdrew into autism as a toddler in Indiana. His parents tried every form of therapy they could find, before finally discovering that he could be drawn out through his captivation with astronomy. His mother, Kristine, took him to astronomy classes at the local university - not to jumpstart his genius but to help coax him back to life. "If I had stopped and let myself bask in the awe of Jake's amazing abilities - if I had stopped to ponder how unusual he really is - I don't think I could have been a good mother to him," she explained. The most vivid section of the book comes at the end, when Hulbert reunites with the musical prodigy Marc Yu, a decade after first interviewing him at age 6. With his mother's support, Yu had tried to ease up on his musical career and live a more normal life, an approach that had worked for other prodigies, including the child actress Shirley Temple. But Yu found that the strategies that worked at the keyboard were useless in high school, where no amount of discipline and focus could make him cool. The adorable, joke-cracking boy she'd remembered had grown into a lonely teenager. "I always expected things to go my way," Yu told Hulbert. "If I wanted it, I worked hard enough, I got it, and people loved me. That's no longer true, and I feel I exist in the shadow of popular kids." Yu's story reinforces one of Hulbert's central, if unsatisfying, findings: Children's needs change. If you think you've got a child figured out, you will be proved wrong momentarily. As Hulbert writes: "Prodigies offer reminders writ large that children, in the end, flout our best and worst intentions." And adults always overestimate their own influence. amanda ripley is a senior fellow at the Emerson Collective and the author, most recently, of "The Smartest Kids in the World."

  Publishers Weekly Review

De la Peña's prose poem speaks right to young children. "In the beginning there is light/ and two wide-eyed figures standing/ near the foot of your bed,/ and the sound of their voices is love," he opens as an interracial couple looks down at a crib. The rest of de la Peña's poem is accompanied by images of families and friends of many different ages and appearances who live in cities and in rural or warm places, such as the group of men seen throwing horseshoes under palm trees. The expressions worn by Long's characters and the way their shoulders are stooped with care make them seem full of love, even when they're playing instruments or fishing. It's not always smooth sailing, and sometimes scary things happen ("One day you find your family/ nervously huddled around the TV"), but comfort is there. "It's okay, it's okay, it's love," says a grown-up offering a child an embrace. People often talk to children about love; in these pages, they can see and feel what it's like. And there's plenty for everybody. Ages 4-8. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

  School Library Journal Review

Gr 2-5-How do we love and care for one another? Award-winning author de la Peña sets out not only to count the ways but also to help young people recognize and take these tender mercies to heart, especially when times are tough and beyond the control of the adults around them. He defines love in multiple sensory images, brilliantly interpreted and expanded upon in evocative mixed media paintings. Long's use of light and shadow are particularly effective, with love seeming to illuminate and embrace the diverse cast of characters. The spare lyrical text describes the music of parents' voices at the foot of the bed, the colors of the night sky above a family's trailer, or the echo of laughter as kids run through summer sprinklers as just a few of the brighter examples. Yet, small kindnesses can come when least expected, on the streets as fire alarms blare or when trusted adults behave badly and all seems lost. Learning to recognize love in the spirit and actions of others and in one's mirror reflection are among the most important and powerful lessons that life (and this book) can impart. The author ventures that "when the time comes for you to set off on your own," it isn't mere luck that will ensure one's success; it's the ability to accept and to give love that will make all the difference. VERDICT This heartfelt and sensitively rendered picture book meditation begs to be shared and discussed with children, especially those with the maturity and life experience to appreciate the nostalgic tone and the nonlinear and philosophical musings. Spread the love.--Luann Toth, School Library Journal © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Summary
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER<br> <br> "[A] poetic reckoning of the importance of love in a child's life . . . eloquent and moving." -- People <br> <br> "Everything that can be called love -- from shared joy to comfort in the darkness -- is gathered in the pages of this reassuring, refreshingly honest picture book." -- The New York Times Book Review , Editors' Choice / Staff Picks From the Book Review<br> <br> From Newbery Medal-winning author Matt de la Peña and bestselling illustrator Loren Long comes a story about the strongest bond there is and the diverse and powerful ways it connects us all. <br> <br> "In the beginning there is light<br> and two wide-eyed figures standing near the foot of your bed<br> and the sound of their voices is love.<br> ...<br> A cab driver plays love softly on his radio<br> while you bounce in back with the bumps of the city<br> and everything smells new, and it smells like life."<br> <br> In this heartfelt celebration of love, Newbery Medal-winning author Matt de la Pe#65533;a and bestselling illustrator Loren Long depict the many ways we experience this universal bond, which carries us from the day we are born throughout the years of our childhood and beyond. With a lyrical text that's soothing and inspiring, this tender tale is a needed comfort and a new classic that will resonate with readers of every age.
Librarian's View
Displaying 1 of 1