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


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


Page Count: 253

Publisher: Open Wings Press

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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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

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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