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The Short Bus: A Journey Beyond Normal Paperback – May 27, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Many kids with physical, mental, and learning disabilities have ridden the short bus to special-education classes, signaling that they were different, singled out, not normal. Mooney was one of those short bus children who hated school because he was dyslexic and couldn't read until he was 12. In 2003, a few years after he graduated from Brown University, he cowrote a book on learning disabilities and began a career of public speaking on the subject. Then he set out on a journey. He bought an old short bus and traveled from Los Angeles to Maine to Washington and back to L.A., stopping to visit with various people who were also not normal. Along the way, he confronted his own preconceptions and assumptions about people with autism, Down syndrome, deafness and blindness, ADHD, and other so-called disabilities. In this book, he deals with the question of What is normal? This is a story about a young man coming to accept himself, but also a cautionary tale about what happens in schools, in the workplace, and in society when people fail to recognize that everyone is normal, just in different ways. Mooney is an engaging writer with a sense of humor about his own failings, and his story is an entertaining and enlightening one.–Sarah Flowers, Santa Clara County Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Jonathan Mooney is an uplifting, rebellious voice who will strike a chord with anyone who has ever had a hard time marching in step in a culture of conformity. His book is not just about how Jon found personal success after growing up with severe learning differences (dyslexia and ADHD), it's the story of his journey to accept himself by finding others labeled "disabled" or "not normal" who have survived and even triumphed. In person, in his amazing speeches around the country, Jonathan speaks with heart, spirit and energy, helping audiences re-imagine their lives. He does this same thing in his remarkable, magical book. Get on the short bus and fasten your seat belts. No matter who you are, you won't be the same at the end of this ride.” ―Edward M. Hallowell M.D., author of Delivered from Distraction: Getting the Most Out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder and other books

“Curious and compassionate, clearheaded and self-questioning, enlightened and illuminating, Jonathan Mooney takes us on a modern yet timeless odyssey. In his drive across America, he steers us past his own painful memories, through the history of disabilities, and into the lives of people who refuse to be oppressed. A long overdue tribute to our brothers and sisters on the short bus, and a desperately needed battle cry against the tyranny of normalcy.” ―Rachel Simon, author of Riding the Bus with My Sister

“Hop on board The Short Bus with Jonathan Mooney to experience a one of a kind ride. Purposefully taking readers far beyond the limits of 'normalcy,' he drives deep into the heart of human existence--asking us where do we truly stand in our acceptance of diversity? As the informative, insightful, and irreverent guide of the tour, Mooney bares his soul and his ass in equal measure. Passing through the unpredictable landscape, we encounter the often disarming beauty of human difference embodied in the everyday lives of (extra)ordinary people who--by their very existence--shatter the ideals of "mainstream" America. Ultimately, The Short Bus is a true celebration of survival and diversity.” ―Dr. David J. Connor, Co-author of Reading Resistance

The Short Bus is a must-read account of a subversive journey through the heartland of normalcy. Mooney's trip is like Steinbeck's Travels with Charley or Kerouac's On the Road, only his subjects are a colorful gaggle of people with learning disabilities who share a refreshing irreverence towards the received ideas of a therapeutic society. Mooney writes with a strong power of observation and a refreshing writing style that makes you understand how good a writer a card-carrying dyslexic can be. Anyone interested in America, disability, or the pleasures of being alive should read this work.” ―Lennard Davis, author of Enforcing Normalcy

“This book should be required reading for anyone who thinks they are in the business of "helping" or "serving" people with disabilities. Mooney understands the power that comes when disabled children and adults claim their identity, reject social constructs of what is normal, and define success on their own terms. By journeying beyond normal, Mooney shows the way to a more human, more interesting destination that can transform the field of education, lay bare the shortcomings of the helping professions, and help disabled people get in touch with their own power.” ―Andrew Imparato, President and CEO American Association of People with Disabilities

“Get on Jonathan Mooney's bus--he will drive you to the heart of the matter.” ―Simi Linton, author of the memoir My Body Politic

The Short Bus is a wonderful ‘on the road' story that beats out even Kerouac's book. . . . Superbly written.” ―John McKnight, author of The Careless Society.

“In this wonderful memoir, John Mooney charts his passage out of ableism and saneism. Along the way, he teaches us the possibility of joining him in a state of mind beyond the binaries of the normal and the pathological. A true pleasure to read!” ―Bradley Lewis, MD, PhD, Gallatin School of Individualized Study, New York University

The Short Bus should be tucked into the back of every short bus seat as a treat. And it should be required reading for every PTA, every school board, and every person involved with kids in any way.” ―Josh Blue, Card-carrying member of the Freak Club

“The view from The Short Bus is candid, irreverent and eye opening. Mooney takes us On the Road, asking what happens when you stop chasing the horizon of normalcy and start reveling in your differences.” ―Harold S. Koplewicz, M.D., Chairman, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, NYU School of Medicine, Author of Moore than Moody and It's Nobody's Fault

“Ride Jonathan Mooney's The Short Bus and you will be changed. With captivating storytelling, Mooney kidnaps the reader away from ‘normal' for a journey that is hilarious, heartbreaking, and ultimately liberating. Anyone has had to deal with the ill fitted suit of ‘normalcy' in their coming-of-age will recognize the struggles in these stories -- and as it turns out that means every one of us! The Short Bus gives us a whole new way to understand all young people, and to support the genius of difference in our communities.” ―Michael Patrick MacDonald, author of All Souls and Easter Rising


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks; Reprint edition (May 27, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805088040
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805088045
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #121,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Julia Rogers on July 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Short bus. I rode a short bus. I hid in the bathroom during round robin reading. I faked sick on Spelling Bee day. I had teachers that were damning but I had teachers and parents who believed in me. I'm one of the "odd" people with ADD and a learning disablity. Now I teach kids with learning disabilities so I have the perspective from both sides. Mooney paints a vivid picture of the darkness a disibility can bring. I cried though this book, but I laughed too. I hope people read this book with a open mind. For every kid with a bad school experience there is a kid with a good one. I wish Mooney could move beyond his bitter anger and make lemonade from the lemons he is sucking on. I think his next book should focus on alcohol and drug abuse of adults with ADD and LD. He might learn something about himself. I gave this book 4 stars because it is beautiful but I wish a could talk to Jonathan and remind him that our world is better because of the stuggle people like us went through. More later, I need to think this one over.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By elkepelka on June 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I received the book yesterday afternoon and proceeded to sit down intending to read a just a few chapters and then get dinner on the table for my boys...5 hours later, I was still reading-- I could not put the book down. I ended up reading it cover to cover at the kitchen table. I haven't done that in ages. Luckily the boys are old enough to fend for themselves!!!

This is an emotional book. It's also a really wonderful book. Jonathan has really challenged me to look inside my own self and confront my own pre-conceived ideas and ways of looking at people who are labeled disabled. I really think this book should be required reading for educators and professionals who are dealing with students or clients with disabilities, it reminds you that behind the label there is an individual who brings with them their own unique gifts and wonderful qualities. We cannot.. no we must not forget that.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By DPM on January 31, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I didn't ride the short bus; I came from a previous generation. However, Jonathan's experience rang true. I didn't hear any false notes. Getting my doctorate didn't take away the scars from the educational system. But I came from a different era. That's why I couldn't believe my eyes when I read the one negative review posted by J O'neil.

Certain words have an emotional impact and are only said to hurt. To publically shame a LD person for mispelling something is familiar and one of the most abusive things we can experience. It's a not-so-sublte way in our culture to win an agrument or to announce to the world that you think someone is stupid. Spelling is a gift that many LD people don't have, even though we possess many marvelous gifts. Yet O'Neil, a principal of a LD program no-less, did this. What is most disturbing is that this person seems blind to the irony. There are good teachers who fight this sick system, where these attitudes are tolerated. Thanks to J O'neil, the problem is all there in a paragraph--everything that Jonathan articulated. As I said, I found his insights about school true and I thank him for expanding the conversation.

Jonathan also takes on the issue of "normal," something that gets kicked around loosely but seldom discussed in depth. His reflections allowed me to look beyond myself, again, to the bigger question of how we all fit in this larger community. He does this in a way that's both fair and sensitive. Thanks.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Colleen N. Bland on April 1, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book was a requirement for a graduate course I took on learning disabilities. The teacher had a copy on hand for us to thumb through the first day of class. After just reading a couple of paragraphs here and there I couldn't let it go. I had to borrow the book that night and devoured it immediately. I bought a copy anyway because I think that all adults who consider themselves educated could benefit from Mooney's writing. I learned more in this text than I had in dozens of expensive textbooks. My copy is worn from being lent out to friends, colleagues, and family.

Mooney does not simply teach the symptoms of disability. He teaches interaction, empathy, and most of all that as with all things a sense of humor is a must. I appreciated his tone and found comfort in the idea that while things can seem heartbreaking, it is always okay to laugh. I am beginning my journey in the field of special education. When finding my interactions with students awkward and scary, I can open this book to nearly any section and find insight and support. The people that Mooney discovers on his path are what makes our world colorful, imaginative, and fun.

This book is a must have for any educator, family of a person battling with "normal", or anyone that considers himself a well rounded human being. Buy it! You'll be better off because of it.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Rosemary B. Walker on July 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read "Learning Outside the Lines" years ago when my son was young. Regardless of what teachers say, the life of a child who learns differently is a miserable life. Like teachers say, the best 3 things about school are June, July, and August vacation.

This book will help open up the dialog between teachers and their "unusual" students. It's no great sin to be learning (teaching) disabled, but it's no great honor, either, especially in the public school system whose main goal is to treat everyone the same. If there is trouble in that, it's not THEIR problem...they choose to place the blame solely on the young child who ends up feeling defective.

How great that what doesn't kill us makes us stronger...
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