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Though a rather ordinary book, the narrative is relentlessly optimistic and a good source of ideas for merit badge projects.

A cheerily aspirational celebration of Americans who are making a difference.

At the beginning of their latest collaboration, Kyle, widow of “American sniper” Chris Kyle, and DeFelice (co-authors: American Wife: A Memoir of Love, War, Faith, and Renewal, 2015) proclaim that “the pioneer spirit built America,” with apologies to the Native and African peoples who paid the bill (“there is much we regret in retrospect”). Just what that spirit constitutes is a little fuzzy, but the phrase seems to translate as community-building altruism, its proponents “doing their own part to bring order to chaos and to show up for other people.” Allowing that clichés such as “our kids are our future” are just that, clichés, the authors argue that the pioneer spirit is built on the premise that we sacrifice now for a better future. You might not know it from the behavior of the boomers and Gen Xers, but as for the kids themselves, many are doing important things. One example is Alexandra Scott, a victim of neuroblastoma who used part of her short life to operate a lemonade stand that raised thousands of dollars to help children like her—and, now that she’s passed, the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer raises millions. “All of this,” write the authors, “because one little girl decided to open a lemonade stand in her front yard…and because thousands of other kids decided to copy her.” The authors also discuss the work of veteran Micah Fink, a New Yorker who takes fellow veterans on horseback rides in the Montana wilderness to work through PTSD and “guilt at not being ‘O.K.,’ whatever that means.” Other profiles concern an autistic Appalachian Trail hiker and a blind marathon runner, with many others centering on veterans of recent wars.

Though a rather ordinary book, the narrative is relentlessly optimistic and a good source of ideas for merit badge projects.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-268371-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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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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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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