An engaging travel narrative for both language lovers and general audiences.

MOTHER TONGUE

MY FAMILY'S GLOBE-TROTTING QUEST TO DREAM IN MANDARIN, LAUGH IN ARABIC, AND SING IN SPANISH

A blogger and documentary filmmaker’s account of how she and her family became globe-trotting foreign language learners.

Gilbert decided that she, her husband, and her child needed to become multilingual global citizens rather than remain “all-American monolinguals”—not just to enhance their cultural literacy, but also to give their young son, Cole, a cognitive edge. The author’s father had suffered from dementia, and she discovered research that showed how lifelong bilinguals “could stave off the effects of dementia by four to five years.” The “mad” project she envisioned would eventually take her family to Beijing, Beirut, and Puerto Vallarta, where they would learn three languages through focused study and cultural immersion. Her idealism, however, foundered almost immediately after she arrived in China. Studying Chinese, one of the hardest of all modern languages, “felt like hitting my head against a brick wall,” and Beijing was so polluted that the family had to stay indoors most of the time. Yet by the time they left for Beirut a few months later, they had managed to learn the rudiments of Chinese. Although Cole went through a worrisome “silent period” before he began to speak Arabic, Gilbert soon discovered that the language “was hard, but it wasn’t that hard.” However, political instability and the constant threat of violence drove the family on to Mexico, where Gilbert gave birth to her second child and learned to speak Spanish with ease. Two years after they had begun their journey, the family decided to settle more permanently in Barcelona, where they could “form [their] life…and community” around a second culture they could love and call their own. Informed by research into language and cognitive development, Gilbert’s book is not only the record of a lively and unusual adventure. It is also a celebration of a family’s determination to venture together, for better or worse, into the unknown.

An engaging travel narrative for both language lovers and general audiences.

Pub Date: May 17, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-59240-792-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avery

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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