Rose, associate director of the UCLA writing program, offers an intensely personal book, interlacing his own rise from ghetto child to intellectual adventurer with his experiences of passing on that sense of adventure to what he calls ""America's Underprepared."" Rose's work during the past two decades of stimulating the educational underclass has been spurred by his own modest beginnings. To some extent, Rose's own life is emblematic of the challenges that he has faced in breaking down the learning barriers of others. He movingly writes of the isolation of neighborhoods, ""information poverty,"" limited family means, the consequent dominance of family disasters, academic inadequacy, and ""the dislocations that come from crossing educational boundaries."" Rose argues that, for the underprepared, the parameters of a classical education appear foreign and threatening. ""To live your early life on the streets of South L.A. . .and to journey up through the top levels of the American educational system will call for support and guidance. . ."" While teaching veterans in the Teachers Corps, Rose centered his own writing curriculum on four intellectual strategies: summarizing, classifying, comparing, and analyzing. From these basic tools, he has been able to take remedial students and infuse them with the joy of discovery, wordplay, and critical thinking. Rose contends that creative literary instruction can awaken the hidden capacities of both children and adults, a result that cuts across such an easy classification as ""slow learner."" In the light of recent ""back-to-basics"" calls from Bloom, Bennett, et al., with their assumption of Victorian schoolmarms inculcating standards, Rose's book is a real challenge and a viable alternative.