An important, thoughtfully balanced book aimed at shifting thinking and providing concrete steps toward encouraging...

READ REVIEW

THE GIFT OF FAILURE

HOW THE BEST PARENTS LEARN TO LET GO SO THEIR CHILDREN CAN SUCCEED

Reflections on the benefits of giving children the chance to experience failure—and how to go about doing it.

A teacher and writer on education and parenting for the New York Times and the Atlantic, Lahey provides an overview of parenting values through the decades in order to ensure that we don’t return to outdated values, as well as to examine the weaknesses of the current approach. This would, in theory, provide useful information toward a new paradigm, rather than simply lurching back toward the end of the spectrum that involves such actions as smacking students’ hands with rulers when they are disrespectful. While certainly not advocating that approach, Lahey is also unwilling to turn a blind eye to the problems inherent in modern parenting, which she characterizes as essentially overridden by parents’ concerns about securing the best possible everything for their children: experiences free of disappointment, a prize for every participant, making sure self-esteem, above all else, is maintained. The result, the author argues compellingly, is hobbling children, leaving them unable to develop actual self-understanding and competency in how to integrate the idea of failure into their lives. Lahey brings her own parenting to the table, dissecting her difficulties in practicing what she preaches. For example, when her son leaves for school without the homework he’d worked so hard on, and she sees it, should she bring it to him and save him from missing recess? The author admits her struggles with holding the line and letting natural consequences take their course. In the majority of the book, Lahey focuses on strategies for navigating the parent/child/school triangle to avoid getting entangled in controlling the experience, but she also considers home chores, peer relationships, and a variety of other topics.

An important, thoughtfully balanced book aimed at shifting thinking and providing concrete steps toward encouraging positive—and realistic—self-image development.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-229923-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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A vivid sequel that strains credulity.

THE ESCAPE ARTIST

Fremont (After Long Silence, 1999) continues—and alters—her story of how memories of the Holocaust affected her family.

At the age of 44, the author learned that her father had disowned her, declaring her “predeceased”—or dead in his eyes—in his will. It was his final insult: Her parents had stopped speaking to her after she’d published After Long Silence, which exposed them as Jewish Holocaust survivors who had posed as Catholics in Europe and America in order to hide multilayered secrets. Here, Fremont delves further into her tortured family dynamics and shows how the rift developed. One thread centers on her life after her harrowing childhood: her education at Wellesley and Boston University, the loss of her virginity to a college boyfriend before accepting her lesbianism, her stint with the Peace Corps in Lesotho, and her decades of work as a lawyer in Boston. Another strand involves her fraught relationship with her sister, Lara, and how their difficulties relate to their father, a doctor embittered after years in the Siberian gulag; and their mother, deeply enmeshed with her own sister, Zosia, who had married an Italian count and stayed in Rome to raise a child. Fremont tells these stories with novelistic flair, ending with a surprising theory about why her parents hid their Judaism. Yet she often appears insensitive to the serious problems she says Lara once faced, including suicidal depression. “The whole point of suicide, I thought, was to succeed at it,” she writes. “My sister’s completion rate was pathetic.” Key facts also differ from those in her earlier work. After Long Silence says, for example, that the author grew up “in a small city in the Midwest” while she writes here that she grew up in “upstate New York,” changes Fremont says she made for “consistency” in the new book but that muddy its narrative waters. The discrepancies may not bother readers seeking psychological insights rather than factual accuracy, but others will wonder if this book should have been labeled a fictionalized autobiography rather than a memoir.

A vivid sequel that strains credulity.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982113-60-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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Mostly conservative in its stance and choices but common-sensical and current.

HOW TO RAISE A READER

Savvy counsel and starter lists for fretting parents.

New York Times Book Review editor Paul (My Life With Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues, 2017, etc.) and Russo, the children’s book editor for that publication, provide standard-issue but deftly noninvasive strategies for making books and reading integral elements in children’s lives. Some of it is easier said than done, but all is intended to promote “the natural, timeless, time-stopping joys of reading” for pleasure. Mediumwise, print reigns supreme, with mild approval for audio and video books but discouraging words about reading apps and the hazards of children becoming “slaves to the screen.” In a series of chapters keyed to stages of childhood, infancy to the teen years, the authors supplement their advice with short lists of developmentally appropriate titles—by their lights, anyway: Ellen Raskin’s Westing Game on a list for teens?—all kitted out with enticing annotations. The authors enlarge their offerings with thematic lists, from “Books That Made Us Laugh” to “Historical Fiction.” In each set, the authors go for a mix of recent and perennially popular favorites, leaving off mention of publication dates so that hoary classics like Janice May Udry’s A Tree Is Nice seem as fresh as David Wiesner’s Flotsam and Carson Ellis’ Du Iz Tak? and sidestepping controversial titles and themes in the sections for younger and middle-grade readers—with a few exceptions, such as a cautionary note that some grown-ups see “relentless overparenting” in Margaret Wise Brown’s Runaway Bunny. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series doesn’t make the cut except for a passing reference to its “troubling treatment of Indians.” The teen lists tend to be edgier, salted with the provocative likes of Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, and a nod to current demands for more LGBTQ and other #ownvoices books casts at least a glance beyond the mainstream. Yaccarino leads a quartet of illustrators who supplement the occasional book cover thumbnails with vignettes and larger views of children happily absorbed in reading.

Mostly conservative in its stance and choices but common-sensical and current.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5235-0530-2

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Workman

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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