In this well-researched and organized account, Jensen presents the research on the students who are showing up in our classrooms and makes suggestions about how we should respond, both overall and in particular classrooms. There’s nothing here to argue with – and I cringe at the prospect of discussing this one with people who would attempt to dismiss it because of their own experience.

Only the last chapter, “Instructional Light and Magic,” disappoints. In this chapter, Jensen means to show us how his ‘transformed’ teacher, a Mr. Hawkins, now teaches because of what he’s learned about low-SES students.

What comes before that chapter makes sense. Putting these words into action?

I wanted to see what all the fuss was about this book, this trilogy. Roth has a premise – the world has split into factions representing various characteristics – and, well, that’s it. She is incapable of creating a setting or character. Everything and everyone comes off as bland. Even the attempts at romantic friction fall flat, in part because there’s no variety to the descriptions of Tris’ interactions with the absurdly named Four. And if there’s supposed to be some import to the fact that she doesn’t think she’s pretty (and that Four agrees), it eluded me. Okay, she is still attractive because of her other qualities. Wonderful. Why does there have to be such an immediate love interest at all?

Tris’ transformation lacks credibility. She simply goes from one things to being another. Whenever Roth is stuck, she simply invents a detail that allows things to continue. Whenever Tris is nervous, she does the same bloody thing. How many times does she brush off her jeans when nothing is actually there?

The physical punishment Roth has her characters endure suggests she knows little about medical matters. There is no way these kids – and they are kids – would recover so quickly.

An awful book.

Stedman Graham (yes, Mr. Oprah) fancies himself wise. If you follow his step-by-step instructions, you, too, will have a successful life.

If you leave aside the ways he oversimplifies things, this supposed self-help guide ignores a pretty essential point. Not everyone, least of all the audience Graham seems to be trying to address, begins life at the same starting line. Our success, as much as some political parties would like us to believe, is NOT completely up to us.

Graham’s personal and professional qualifications for writing such a book are dubious at best. His examples are sketchy. And if you take away the ones about sports, they are pretty much absent.

The book, and its author, are extremely patronizing.

One of my favorite lines from the movie Ragtime is when Coalhouse Walker, Jr., having taken over the library, tells Booker T. Washington, “You speak like an angel; it’s a pity we live down here on earth.”

The connection is coming; I promise.

So often, I hear or read about great ideas for the classroom, but there is little effort to or recognition of the challenges that come with trying to put such ideas into practice. Thus, I was excited to be handed this book. I am a firm believer in Dweck’s ideas of a fixed and growth mindset, but translating these ideas into the classroom remains a challenge.

There’s not a great deal of help here, and the help that does come is mostly for younger children (a distressingly familiar concern) and, in one case, math students. (The one substantive literature-related suggestion suggests a lack of experience with literature instruction.)

So I can copy more quotes and suggest that we teach more about how the brain works, but this remains an uphill battle.

[Note to the editor: Please learn the difference between complemeant and compliment.]

This book is clear and to the point. Silverman has done her homework and presents it in an organized fashion. I felt known by a few of her descriptions of the Dad’s role (the Joker, the “It’s not my Department” father) and disgusted by some of the anecdotes involving teachers.

I didn’t take the quizzes, and I’m not sure how to bring this more explicitly into my parenting (or my teaching – I whiffed on my first opportunity), but I found it quite inspirational and informative. This is a book I’ll keep close at hand.

In addition, it has plenty of great resources in the back.

One quibble: the title. As neither writing lines on the blackboard nor irony are well-understood by our daughter, I deliberately kept the book face down. I didn’t want our daughter to see Good Girls Don’t Get Fat. The subtitle clears it up, but I didn’t want any confusion.

I haven’t read much foodie literature, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I just knew that this one had made quite a splash when it first arrived.

Within the first few pages, I decided that Bourdain was coming off as kind of a jerk, and my wife assured me that he’d made his fortune that way. So I got over it.

As I was reading it, something felt strangely empty about the reading experience. There were interesting bits and pieces and some surprising ones, but I wasn’t engaged by the whole.

I think the book has a kind of identity crisis. Is it meant to be an expose? A book of advice? A memoir? There’s so much going on here that there’s little time for depth. And there’s one other problem.

Bourdain can’t write.

So much energy is put into creating his voice, his persona, that little effort is put into, for example, the kind of details that could have brought this book to life. How can such a chef not describe food well? Instead, he often resorts to lists.

So, it’s interesting, too long, and going right into the re-sale pile.

What a remarkable, brave, inspiring, educational and frustrating book. If I had the means, I’d make it required reading for, well, everyone. Together, the authors are able to present complex issues in an organized and accessible manner. This book is truly part of the American story.

At times, I found myself discouraged. By the time I meet with students in high school, is it too late? Too late for what? Can we get them on a path to a successful future, however such a future is defined?

I also wished that the authors hadn’t relied so much on academics. I’d have liked to hear more from teachers.

Finally, while I accept that everyone learns differently, I don’t happen to worship at Howard Gardner’s altar.

The book leaves me wondering how I go back and forward at the same time. Trust, I am told. Relationships. Yet these things take time. And at the same time, time is passing.

The book provides tremendous resources and many interesting avenues to explore. I know it’s directed towards parents and not teachers, but we’re part of the conversation.

This is a book to keep on the desk. It is already marked up and well-loved. Time will only make it more so.

I will watch the movie soon —


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