A powerful story of the right of children to live and thrive from birth.




A history of the scientific discoveries and public health mobilizations that made the world safer for children.

As late as the beginning of the 20th century, writes NYU journalism and pediatrics professor Klass, “childhood death was always there, in the shadows at the edge of the family landscape.” Children would die, “regularly and unsurprisingly,” from a host of contagions and infections, often in the forms of epidemics such as typhoid, cholera, polio, smallpox, and diphtheria. The author, a smooth storyteller, traces the arc of medical advancement targeted at that vulnerable population, suggesting that no segment of society was exempt. However, it was also clear that the poor, immigrants, Indigenous peoples, and African Americans would suffer the most. In a remarkable fusion of science, public health, private institutions, and medicine, a slow but steadily growing movement brought necessary sanitation upgrades to cities and advanced understanding of bacteriology, virology, nutrition, and pharmacology. Klass effectively situates childhood deaths and the growth of pediatric medicine in both social and cultural contexts; one interesting section examines the subject via literature, including “sentimental poetry” and even gallows humor. “In that lost world in which dead children and mourning parents were routine and regular parts of life,” writes Klass, “morbid humor clearly had its place.” With steady narrative momentum, the author follows the long road that led to germ theory and the growing belief that it was “not just a parental obligation to prevent [childhood death] but a social responsibility.” Klass also chronicles the egregious missteps: eugenics, social Darwinism, and the racist, classist beliefs that hampered treatment for the poor and people of color. The author completes the picture with a range of subjects, including the dangers of childbirth; ethical issues in the neonatal unit; parents who don’t believe in vaccinations; psychosocial problems, including the shaming of “refrigerator mothers”; and the scourges of measles, chickenpox, polio, and tuberculosis.

A powerful story of the right of children to live and thrive from birth.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020


Page Count: 384

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A well-documented and enlightened portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt for our times.



A comprehensive exploration of one of the most influential women of the last century.

The accomplishments of Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) were widespread and substantial, and her trailblazing actions in support of social justice and global peace resonate powerfully in our current moment. Her remarkable life has been extensively documented in a host of acclaimed biographies, including Blanche Wiesen Cook’s excellent three-volume life. Eleanor was also a highly prolific writer in her own right; through memoirs, essays, and letters, she continuously documented experiences and advancing ideas. In the most expansive one-volume portrait to date, Michaelis offers a fresh perspective on some well-worn territory—e.g., Eleanor’s unconventional marriage to Franklin and her progressively charged relationships with men and women, including her intimacy with newspaper reporter Lorena Hickok. The author paints a compelling portrait of Eleanor’s life as an evolving journey of transformation, lingering on the significant episodes to shed nuance on her circumstances and the players involved. Eleanor’s privileged yet dysfunctional childhood was marked by the erratic behavior and early deaths of her flighty, alcoholic father and socially absorbed mother, and she was left to shuttle among equally neglectful relatives. During her young adulthood, her instinctual need to be useful and do good work attracted the attention of notable mentors, each serving to boost her confidence and fine-tune her political and social convictions, shaping her expanding consciousness. As in his acclaimed biography of Charles Schulz, Michaelis displays his nimble storytelling skills, smoothly tracking Eleanor’s ascension from wife and mother to her powerfully influential and controversial role as first lady and continued leadership and activist efforts beyond. Throughout, the author lucidly illuminates the essence of her thinking and objectives. “As Eleanor’s activism evolved,” writes Michaelis, “she did not see herself reaching to solve social problems so much as engaging with individuals to unravel discontinuities between the old order and modernity.”

A well-documented and enlightened portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt for our times.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4391-9201-6

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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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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