A heartwarming story of how a young woman confronted dyslexia and went on to help others.

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Once Upon a Time a Sparrow

A school psychologist works to accept her own past while also fighting for her students.

In Kabrich’s debut novel, 47-year-old Mary Madelyn Meyers, a psychologist in a Minnesota school system in 2005, struggles to maintain a professional demeanor after her mother dies. She argues with a rage bordering on violence against teachers who want to hold back students with disabilities or different learning styles. When she begins seeing social worker Irene Ingersoll, readers learn that these outbursts, which Mary calls “the mercurial monster,” are linked to her childhood. Back in 1967, Mary was in third grade, went by the nickname “Maddie,” and struggled with severe dyslexia. Her teacher, Mrs. Zinc, classified readers at different levels as types of birds: the best readers were “eagles” and the slowest, “sparrows.” Maddie, time after time, was labeled a sparrow, and she lived in fear of repeating third grade as a result. However, when Mrs. Zinc began reading a new story, The Fairy Angel’s Gift, in class, Maddie became inspired to put new energy into her reading; she stole the book and began working hard on it outside of class. As these two plotlines develop, the older Mary balances her personal struggles and professional life, Maddie learns to read The Fairy Angel’s Gift, and Kabrich reveals an engaging story of self-actualization. The primary motor of the narrative is Mary’s quest for stability in the workplace, but its emotional core rests in the third-grader’s struggle; Maddie’s earnest effort to push herself is endearing and inspiring. Still, the true strength of Kabrich’s novel isn’t its story but rather the important issues to which it draws readers’ attention. Maddie, and the students that she works with as an adult, exemplifies the countless kids that don’t conform to common academic standards. The author demonstrates how school administrations can allow these children to fall through the cracks, sometimes causing lifelong damage to their confidence and learning abilities. It’s an important lesson for everyone to learn and one that Kabrich teaches well.

A heartwarming story of how a young woman confronted dyslexia and went on to help others.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 253

Publisher: Open Wings Press

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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