The teaching profession’s loss is the reading public’s gain, entirely.

TEACHER MAN

A MEMOIR

McCourt’s latest memoir focuses on what ’Tis (1999) gave short shrift to: his life as a teacher.

The same dark humor, lyric voice and gift for dialogue are apparent here as McCourt tells the tale of a 30-year career teaching English in New York City high schools. He begins with his scary first day facing a roomful of 16-year-olds at McKee Vocational and Technical High School on Staten Island, where his job was to teach five English classes per day to teenagers preparing for futures as plumbers, carpenters and auto mechanics. The year was 1958 and McCourt was 27, just out of New York University. One doesn’t have to be a teacher to relish his account of how reading the students’ obviously self-authored absence excuses inspired him to create a composition assignment they couldn’t resist: write a note of excuse from Adam to God. After eight years of stifling bureaucracy at McKee, McCourt taught briefly at New York Community College in Brooklyn, Fashion Industries High School and Seward Park on the Lower East Side. At 38, he left for a doctoral program at Dublin’s Trinity College, returning two years later without a degree. (That misadventure could fill another book.) After drifting as a substitute teacher for a year, he landed a job at prestigious Stuyvesant High School, where thousands of the city’s top students compete for a few hundred spots. McCourt’s self-deprecating tone diminishes in this section, for now this innovative teacher is given free rein, and it is clear that he’s having a grand time. He recalls an unforgettable vocabulary lesson involving a picnic in the park with ethnic foods brought by students in his creative-writing class, and a recipe-as-poetry class in which students read recipes aloud to the accompaniment of assorted musical instruments.

The teaching profession’s loss is the reading public’s gain, entirely.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-4377-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2005

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At-times inspirational memoir about a journalist’s battle with a grave disease she had to face while also dealing with her...

EVERYBODY'S GOT SOMETHING

With the assistance of Chambers (co-author; Yes, Chef, 2012, etc.), broadcaster Roberts (From the Heart: Eight Rules to Live By, 2008) chronicles her struggles with myelodysplastic syndrome, a rare condition that affects blood and bone marrow.

The author is a well-known newscaster, formerly on SportsCenter and now one of the anchors of Good Morning America. In 2007, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, which she successfully fought with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Five years later, after returning from her news assignment covering the 2012 Academy Awards, she learned that chemotherapy had resulted in her developing MDS, which led to an acute form of leukemia. Without a bone marrow transplant, her projected life expectancy was two years. While Roberts searched for a compatible donor and prepared for the transplant, her aging mother’s health also began to gravely deteriorate. Roberts faced her misfortune with an athlete’s mentality, showing strength against both her disease and the loss of her mother. This is reflected in her narration, which rarely veers toward melodrama or self-pity. Even in the chapters describing the transplantion process and its immediate aftermath, which make for the most intimate parts of the book, Roberts maintains her positivity. However, despite the author’s best efforts to communicate the challenges of her experience and inspire empathy, readers are constantly reminded of her celebrity status and, as a result, are always kept at arm's length. The sections involving Roberts’ family partly counter this problem, since it is in these scenes that she becomes any daughter, any sister, any lover, struggling with a life-threatening disease. “[I]f there’s one thing that spending a year fighting for your life against a rare and insidious…disease will teach you,” she writes, “it’s that time is not to be wasted.”

At-times inspirational memoir about a journalist’s battle with a grave disease she had to face while also dealing with her mother’s passing.

Pub Date: April 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4555-7845-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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