A well-meaning book that loses its folkloric appeal in its obvious messages.

Arina, Arina The Most Loved Child

THE LIGHT IS ALWAYS WITHIN

In Reid’s (The Student Councilor, 2010, etc.) children’s picture book and simple parenting guide, the impending birth of a fatherless child sparks lessons in positivity and spiritual healing.  

This book, set in an imagined island village and illustrated in a saturated watercolor palette, is dedicated “To All the Single Parents for Their Strength and Courage.” The author delivers her messages of reinforcement in the style of a multicultural folk tale. The sun, she explains in her introduction, symbolizes an absent parent, who “for one reason or another,” plays no part in the life of the child. The story begins when the sun vanishes before the birth of a little girl named Arina. The unhappy, anxious mother seeks out a magician, who helps her understand that love hasn’t “disappeared with the sun” and informs her that the light of love is found in thoughts of happiness and gratitude. After Arina bathes in her mother’s newfound positive energy, her birth results in so much light and love that people come from all over the world to witness the miracle. From here, however, the story’s folk-tale charm gives way to a prosaic tone. In a kind but firm, teacherly fashion, the book becomes frankly instructive—so much so that when the now older Arina has a tantrum, her mother gives her a timeout and counsels her to “Never be mean or say negative things about anyone,” to focus on the positive, never judge others, be thankful, and to let her inner light shine on “forever.” This works for Arina, but real children may feel somewhat burdened by such a weighty panoply of expectations. That said, Lemaire’s (The Adventure of Maesee Peek, 2016, etc.) pleasant, page-filling illustrations maintain the book’s visual continuity, interspersed with blocks of text set against vibrantly colored backgrounds.

A well-meaning book that loses its folkloric appeal in its obvious messages. 

Pub Date: May 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5086-1270-4

Page Count: 42

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2016

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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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Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

COLUMBINE

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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