A courageous, immensely rewarding chronicle expressed in arresting words and pictures.

An X Games competitive skier and photographer recounts an extraordinary life spent overcoming immense physical limitations.

Connolly was born without legs in the summer of 1985, in Helena, Mont., after his mother endured a lengthy, difficult labor. His condition is known as Bilateral Amelia of the lower extremities and, without artificial limbs, the author would live his life at 3’1” tall. The family made the best of the tragic situation by using humor to mask hardship or disappointment, but it was Connolly’s father, a tough man with a feathered mullet, who snapped into action and became inspired by the innovative inventions featured on the TV series MacGyver. With varying degrees of success and usefulness, he outfitted everything from handrails to toilet seats in an effort to accommodate his son. The dark side of living with a disability seeps through as Connolly describes the eagle-eyed scrutiny of cruel children, the unmanageability of prosthetics in grade school (“a pair of glorified, flesh-colored stilts wasn’t the solution”) and, wheelchair-bound, his daring (if unsuccessful) courtship of one of his classmates. Determined attempts at wrestling proved fruitless yet paved the way for major victories racing on a mono-ski atop Montana’s Bridger Bowl under the watchful eye of his proud father. Not wanting to “hold anyone else up,” Connolly spent school breaks traveling solo throughout Europe strapped to a skateboard, reuniting with kindhearted folks like Serge, an Internet friend living in the Ukraine. As powerful as his memoir reads, it is Connolly’s photographs—featured at the beginning of each chapter and on his website—of people’s reactions to him that provide a striking visual punch. By the end of his European vacation, he’d taken more than 900 “empowering,” “therapeutic” images, which today total more than 30,000. Embarking on both a stint at the X Games and a photographic project called “The Rolling Exhibition”—it has since been featured at The Smithsonian—the fearless author continues to persevere and seeks to motivate others.

A courageous, immensely rewarding chronicle expressed in arresting words and pictures.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-06-179153-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: HarperStudio

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2009


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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