From Publishers Weekly
Quart's follow-up to Branded
shifts her focus from rapacious companies to parents, whose obsession with "creating" or "nurturing" giftedness, she argues, has led to a full-blown transformation of middle-class childhood into aggressive skill-set pageantry. While Quart wonderfully details the daily grinds of genuine prodigies (in everything from violin to preaching to entrepreneurship), the real force of the book is in showing how gifted childhood—relentlessly tested, totally overscheduled and joylessly competitive—is being created by striving parents of all stripes; such "enrichment" not only doesn't necessarily work, it can be harmful. A chapter titled "The Icarus Effect" presents child-prodigies as worn, depressed adults; "Extreme Parenting" and "Child Play or Child Labor?" show the bizarre (and often profit-based) forms prodigy-mongering is taking: "Phoenix has started her own knitwear business," one parent crows, "and though she is only 12, she can do it." Probing interviews (the kids are brilliant, robotic, frenetic, forlorn and every shade in between) are matched with educational and psychological data, with beautiful cultural riffs (particularly linking mathletes and Wall Street) and deep engagement: a former gifted kid herself, Quart interviews, interprets and assesses with a sympathy for her subjects and their caregivers that is emotionally profound. She turns in a remarkably evenhanded analysis and argues for "multiple intelligences" and enrichment for "strong learners" in public schools. Quart's second book is first-class literary journalism. (Aug.)
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Parental obsession with identifying and nurturing the slightest giftedness in children has produced a "prodigy industry" that is robbing children of simple childhood experiences, according to Quart, a former child prodigy who traveled the country to research the frenzied trend to identify and market products, services, and activities for gifted children. She examined research and talked to parents, educators, and child psychologists as well as current and former child prodigies for a portrait of what she calls the Icarus Effect. Quart includes her own story, describing herself as insufferable, an early reader who skipped a grade and wrote her first novel at seven. She visits an amazing range of competitions for gifted children, including spelling bees, Scrabble contests, and poetry slams, all part of enormous pressures placed on gifted children that sometimes result in resentment and rebellion as the gifted look back on stunted childhoods, haunted by not living up to their promise, being "a cross between a has-been and a never-was." A fascinating cautionary tale for overzealous parents of gifted children. Vanessa BushCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved