An uncritical text so inflated with celebration that it nearly floats out of readers' hands.

The man behind the trophy—John William Heisman (1869–1936)—had surpassing talents and a character as spotless as burnished bronze.

So says this biography by his great-grandnephew and ESPN columnist Schlabach (Called to Coach: Reflections on Life, Faith, and Football, 2010). The authors begin in 1935 with the presentation of the first award for football prowess at New York’s Downtown Athletic Club, an award Heisman, who worked for the club, initially opposed, then designed and wholeheartedly supported. That first year was the only year it would not bear Heisman’s name; when he died in 1935, the club appended his name, and we all know about the hoopla associated with it nowadays. The authors take us back to Heisman’s German ancestors (who spelled the name Heissmann) and shows us their emigration and their move to Pennsylvania, where the family became involved in the booming oil business as coopers. Growing up in Titusville, young Heisman learned “personal responsibility; hard, persevering work; and honest dealings.” The authors sketch Heisman’s education (he went to the University of Pennsylvania), his passion for football (he was the dynamite-in-small-packages type) and his decision to coach, a decision that would take him to numerous schools, virtually all of which became winners under his innovative tutelage. The authors offer too much history of every school where he worked, and we hear about plenty of games and players and Heisman’s superior thespian and writing skills (he had a “mastery of the English language”).

An uncritical text so inflated with celebration that it nearly floats out of readers' hands.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1451682915

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Howard Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012


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

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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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