A fascinating exploration of the importance of the outdoors to childhood development.

THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS BAD WEATHER

A SCANDINAVIAN MOM'S SECRETS FOR RAISING HEALTHY, RESILIENT, AND CONFIDENT KIDS (FROM FRILUFTSLIV TO HYGGE)

A Swedish woman contrasts child-raising styles in the United States and Sweden.

Growing up in Sweden, McGurk, who runs the blog Rain or Shine Mamma, spent much of the day outside, regardless of the weather. So when she moved to a small town in the Midwest and had two children of her own, she expected them to be as enthusiastic about the outdoors as she was. Unfortunately, that was not the case. This led her to wonder whether it was just in America where children have little contact with nature or if the Swedes had also turned their backs on the outdoors. When her father became ill, McGurk took her children to Sweden for six months and spent the time examining the differences in child-rearing styles between the U.S. and Sweden and, more generally, Scandinavia. The author expertly combines personal memories of her childhood and that of her children with scientific data and research to show the significant disparities in the way children interact with nature in each country. In Sweden, infants are left to sleep outside, even in cold weather (bundled up), as the fresh air is good for them. Preschoolers and school-age children have multiple recesses per day and are encouraged to engage in sledding, skiing, ice skating, and other activities, many of which are deemed too dangerous in the U.S. Scandinavian children often attend nature schools where they learn to use knives and axes, build fires, identify edible plants, and develop an awareness of their natural surroundings; this fosters a deep desire to protect and preserve these areas. The author effectively shows the many ways American parents can learn from their Scandinavian counterparts, and she provides numerous tips and techniques to help parents incorporate these ideas into their daily lives. The glossary of Scandinavian terms, from hygge to solfattig (“sun poor”), is also helpful.

A fascinating exploration of the importance of the outdoors to childhood development.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-4362-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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AN INVISIBLE THREAD

THE TRUE STORY OF AN 11-YEAR-OLD PANHANDLER, A BUSY SALES EXECUTIVE, AND AN UNLIKELY MEETING WITH DESTINY

A straightforward tale of kindness and paying it forward in 1980s New York.

When advertising executive Schroff answered a child’s request for spare change by inviting him for lunch, she did not expect the encounter to grow into a friendship that would endure into his adulthood. The author recounts how she and Maurice, a promising boy from a drug-addicted family, learned to trust each other. Schroff acknowledges risks—including the possibility of her actions being misconstrued and the tension of crossing socio-economic divides—but does not dwell on the complexities of homelessness or the philosophical problems of altruism. She does not question whether public recognition is beneficial, or whether it is sufficient for the recipient to realize the extent of what has been done. With the assistance of People human-interest writer Tresniowski (Tiger Virtues, 2005, etc.), Schroff adheres to a personal narrative that traces her troubled relationship with her father, her meetings with Maurice and his background, all while avoiding direct parallels, noting that their childhoods differed in severity even if they shared similar emotional voids. With feel-good dramatizations, the story seldom transcends the message that reaching out makes a difference. It is framed in simple terms, from attributing the first meeting to “two people with complicated pasts and fragile dreams” that were “somehow meant to be friends” to the conclusion that love is a driving force. Admirably, Schroff notes that she did not seek a role as a “substitute parent,” and she does not judge Maurice’s mother for her lifestyle. That both main figures experience a few setbacks yet eventually survive is never in question; the story fittingly concludes with an epilogue by Maurice. For readers seeking an uplifting reminder that small gestures matter.

 

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4251-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Howard Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2011

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INSIDE AMERICAN EDUCATION

THE DECLINE, THE DECEPTION, THE DOGMAS

American schools at every level, from kindergarten to postgraduate programs, have substituted ideological indoctrination for education, charges conservative think-tanker Sowell (Senior Fellow/Hoover Institution; Preferential Polices, 1990, etc.) in this aggressive attack on the contemporary educational establishment. Sowell's quarrel with "values clarification" programs (like sex education, death-sensitizing, and antiwar "brainwashing") isn't that he disagrees with their positions but, rather, that they divert time and resources from the kind of training in intellectual analysis that makes students capable of reasoning for themselves. Contending that the values clarification programs inspired by his archvillain, psychotherapist Carl Rogers, actually inculcate values confusion, Sowell argues that the universal demand for relevance and sensitivity to the whole student has led public schools to abdicate their responsibility to such educational ideals as experience and maturity. On the subject of higher education, Sowell moves to more familiar ground, ascribing the declining quality of classroom instruction to the insatiable appetite of tangentially related research budgets and bloated athletic programs (to which an entire chapter, largely irrelevant to the book's broader argument, is devoted). The evidence offered for these propositions isn't likely to change many minds, since it's so inveterately anecdotal (for example, a call for more stringent curriculum requirements is bolstered by the news that Brooke Shields graduated from Princeton without taking any courses in economics, math, biology, chemistry, history, sociology, or government) and injudiciously applied (Sowell's dismissal of student evaluations as responsible data in judging a professor's classroom performance immediately follows his use of comments from student evaluations to document the general inadequacy of college teaching). All in all, the details of Sowell's indictment—that not only can't Johnny think, but "Johnny doesn't know what thinking is"—are more entertaining than persuasive or new.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 1993

ISBN: 0-02-930330-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1992

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