“In Defense of Head Start” could also be the subtitle of this exploration of the preschool program that is one of the few surviving programs of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. Mills (This Little Light of Mine: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer, 1993) mixes extensive observations at Head Start centers from the inner-city Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles to affluent Montgomery County, Md., with pointed summaries of the history and policies of the program that exemplified the slogan “A hand up, not a handout.” The Watts Towers center is Mills’s home base; for a year, she is a frequent visitor, watching the children master not only colors and numbers in two languages, but brushing their teeth, eating their vegetables, and getting along with their peers. A federally funded program, Head Start has had—and still has—a struggle to maintain its independence and community roots in the face of would-be state and local government takeovers. Despite the infamous third-grade fadeout effect, the program, which began as a summer introduction to school for a few thousand children, has now served more than 15 million children and established the importance of preschool and parent involvement as a precursor to later school success. What differentiates Head Start from other preschool programs even now is its emphasis on health and social services for the children and on parent involvement. The latter is a stumbling block: Many parents whose stories are told here have used Head Start training and job opportunities to establish themselves; other programs struggle to involve parents and the community and recruit adequate staff. Money alone is not the answer, says author Mills in summing up; quality control and a “war on the real causes of poverty” should be new goals. A champion of Head Start brings readers into the classrooms and the homes where the program helps turn foundering families into resourceful citizens. (16 pages b&w photos)

Pub Date: April 2, 1998

ISBN: 0-525-94328-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1998

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The sub-title of this book is "Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools." But one finds in it little about education, and less about the teaching of English. Nor is this volume a defense of the Christian faith similar to other books from the pen of C. S. Lewis. The three lectures comprising the book are rather rambling talks about life and literature and philosophy. Those who have come to expect from Lewis penetrating satire and a subtle sense of humor, used to buttress a real Christian faith, will be disappointed.

Pub Date: April 8, 1947

ISBN: 1609421477

Page Count: -

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1947

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Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.


Comprehensive, myth-busting examination of the Colorado high-school massacre.

“We remember Columbine as a pair of outcast Goths from the Trench Coat Mafia snapping and tearing through their high school hunting down jocks to settle a long-running feud. Almost none of that happened,” writes Cullen, a Denver-based journalist who has spent the past ten years investigating the 1999 attack. In fact, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold conceived of their act not as a targeted school shooting but as an elaborate three-part act of terrorism. First, propane bombs planted in the cafeteria would erupt during lunchtime, indiscriminately slaughtering hundreds of students. The killers, positioned outside the school’s main entrance, would then mow down fleeing survivors. Finally, after the media and rescue workers had arrived, timed bombs in the killers’ cars would explode, wiping out hundreds more. It was only when the bombs in the cafeteria failed to detonate that the killers entered the high school with sawed-off shotguns blazing. Drawing on a wealth of journals, videotapes, police reports and personal interviews, Cullen sketches multifaceted portraits of the killers and the surviving community. He portrays Harris as a calculating, egocentric psychopath, someone who labeled his journal “The Book of God” and harbored fantasies of exterminating the entire human race. In contrast, Klebold was a suicidal depressive, prone to fits of rage and extreme self-loathing. Together they forged a combustible and unequal alliance, with Harris channeling Klebold’s frustration and anger into his sadistic plans. The unnerving narrative is too often undermined by the author’s distracting tendency to weave the killers’ expressions into his sentences—for example, “The boys were shooting off their pipe bombs by then, and, man, were those things badass.” Cullen is better at depicting the attack’s aftermath. Poignant sections devoted to the survivors probe the myriad ways that individuals cope with grief and struggle to interpret and make sense of tragedy.

Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

Pub Date: April 6, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-54693-5

Page Count: 406

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

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