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A Thousand Days of Wonder: A Scientist's Chronicle of His Daughter's Developing Mind [Kindle Edition]

Charles Fernyhough
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

A father's intimate look at his daughter's developing mind from birth to age three

Unlike any other time in our lives, we remember almost nothing from our first three years. As infants, not only are we like the proverbial blank slate but our memories are like teflon: nothing sticks. In this beautifully written account of his daughter's first three years, Charles Fernyhough combines his vivid observations with a synthesis of developmental theory, re-creating what that time, lost to the memory of adults, is like from a child's perspective.

In A Thousand Days of Wonder, Fernyhough, a psychologist and novelist, attempts to get inside his daughter's head as she acquires all the faculties that make us human, including social skills, language, morality, and a sense of self. Written with a father's tenderness and a novelist's empathy and style, this unique book taps into a parent's wonder at the processes of psychological development.




Editorial Reviews

Review

Many psychologists, most notably Jean Piaget, have used their offspring as test subjects, but none has done so with such sweetness as Fernyhough brings to his account of his daughter's development during the first three years of her life. From her initial appearance on a sonogram, we watch as baby Athena sorts out her sensory input, recognizes her quot;self,quot; learns that other people are more than extensions of her own will, and walks, talks, and remembers. All of this is basic developmental psych, readily available in many forms, including parenting manuals and textbooks. What makes this title outstanding is that it reads like fiction. (In addition to being a psychologist, the author is also a published novelist.) In vignettes about life with Athena, Fernyhough beautifully captures the mix of frustration and poignancy that will seem achingly familiar to all parents of toddlers. This beautiful book is highly recommended.
-Mary Ann Hughes, formerly Neill P.L., Pullman, WA

"An ambitious and highly intelligent piece of work. If the basis of love is attention, a quality of attention, then Fernyhough has written a 250-page love letter to his daughter. And any parent, particularly one with a young child, will be both moved and enlightened by it."
-Financial Times

"A cross between a biography of a baby growing into a child, a scientists's case-study notes and a beautifully written novel."
-The Guardian [from feature article]

"An elegantly written, warm, thoughtful, novelistic account of his first three years with his daughter Athena ... [does] a lovely job of conveying what life with a baby is like."
-Alison Gopnik, writing in The Times Literary Supplement

"A triumph of informed imagination and a startling testament of love."
-Sunday Telegraph

"Fernyhough has used his daughter's development as a hook on which to hang a considered, up-to-date summary of what we know about how babies develop. But The Baby in the Mirror is more than a high-concept popular science book with some family snaps thrown in.... When Fernyhough needs to sum up an idea about development quickly and accurately, he looks to his daughter, and where a lesser writer would have reached for generalisations, he simply tells us what he sees: the look of comic concentration with which Athena registers the effects of an action; the surreal cack-handedness of her first jokes."
-Sunday Telegraph

"A book that takes the reader right to the heart of how we become human and how we deal with it."
-The Scotsman<./I>

"But The Baby In The Mirror is also a memoir of sorts, a hymn to a child from a loving father. And that is how it reads."
-Sunday Herald

Review

"Many psychologists, most notably Jean Piaget, have used their offspring as test subjects, but none has done so with such sweetness as Fernyhough brings to his account of his daughter's development during the first three years of her life. From her initial appearance on a sonogram, we watch as baby Athena sorts out her sensory input, recognizes her self, learns that other people are more than extensions of her own will, and walks, talks, and remembers. All of this is basic developmental psych, readily available in many forms, including parenting manuals and textbooks. What makes this title outstanding is that it reads like fiction. (In addition to being a psychologist, the author is also a published novelist.) In vignettes about life with Athena, Fernyhough beautifully captures the mix of frustration and poignancy that will seem achingly familiar to all parents of toddlers. This beautiful book is highly recommended."
-Mary Ann Hughes, formerly Neill P.L., Pullman, WA

"An ambitious and highly intelligent piece of work. If the basis of love is attention, a quality of attention, then Fernyhough has written a 250-page love letter to his daughter. And any parent, particularly one with a young child, will be both moved and enlightened by it."
-Financial Times

"A cross between a biography of a baby growing into a child, a scientists's case-study notes and a beautifully written novel."
-The Guardian [from feature article]

"A triumph of informed imagination and a startling testament of love."
-Sunday Telegraph

"A book that takes the reader right to the heart of how we become human and how we deal with it."
-The Scotsman

"But The Baby In The Mirror is also a memoir of sorts, a hymn to a child from a loving father. And that is how it reads."
-Sunday Herald

"An elegantly written, warm, thoughtful, novelistic account of [Fernyhough's] first three years with his daughter Athena."
-Alison Gopnik, author of The Philosophical Baby

"Charles Fernyhough . . . provides an intimate and loving perspective on the emergence of language, consciousness, and autonomy. I have never seen such a beautifully written book on this topic; it is essential reading for both psychologists and new parents."
-Paul Bloom, professor of psychology at Yale University and author of Descartes' Baby: How the Science of Child Development Explains What Makes Us Human

"[A Thousand Days of Wonder] is a marvelous addition to the very narrow shelf of books that take a genuinely respectful interest in the developing minds of young children . . . [Fernyhough] combines a researcher's insights with a parent's unique empathy to create a moving portrait of human consciousness."
-Brian Hall, author of Madeleine's World

"Charles Fernyhough has created . . . an imaginative, accessible account of the stunning possibilities inherent in [a] young child's developing mind. Parents, teachers, students of early childhood development-indeed, anyone interested in understanding young children's rapidly emerging mentality and personhood-will find this book profoundly informative, awe-inspiring, and engrossing."
-Laura E. Berk, distinguished professor of psychology at Illinois State University and author of Awakening Children's Minds: How Parents and Teachers Can Make a Difference


Product Details

  • File Size: 460 KB
  • Print Length: 284 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1583333479
  • Publisher: Avery; Reprint edition (April 2, 2009)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001TSZ66U
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #408,219 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating June 6, 2009
Format:Hardcover
Charles Fernyhough, the author of this book, is a psychologist who is fascinated by the way the brains of young children develop. When his own wife becomes pregnant, he finds himself with the perfect test subject for all of his theories, and the perfect opportunity for close observation of an infant.

Fernyhough delves into the way the brain develops in the womb, the amazing way the mind forges connections even before birth. When his daughter, Athena, is actually born, her doting father spends a great deal of time observing and making notes about her behavior, a close study that continues up through her third year of life.

As a parent of small children myself, I found this account of developing brains to be both fascinating and familiar. It was interesting to find out that many of the emerging behaviors of my children were universal. I loved the way the author spoke to his daughter, and his adoration of her was clear from the way he wrote about their interactions.

This book occasionally got bogged down in the psychology lessons, though, going into some detail about why certain behaviors happened or how they happened, or how certain other scientists over time had observed similar behaviors. Much of this information I already knew, although I can't say for sure if I know it because it's basic information that everyone knows, or if I know it because I've specifically read about these studies before. I was much more interested in reading about the author's conversations with his little girl and how her personhood emerged.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An astonishing book March 24, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
(I read this as the new mother of a two-month old son, and I keep going back to it every couple of months as he changes with breathtaking rapidity....)

A seriously scientific book that repeatedly made me laugh out loud and choke back tears....what an accomplishment. Fernyhough edifies with well-annotated psychology, entertains with beautifully turned phrases, and moves by evoking his own somewhat melancholic spirit and his daughter's vast, inimitable personality. He really made me feel the enormity of a new human being's mind.

This book is great nourishment for the mind and soul of a new parent.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too Little Science or Memoir to Satisfy December 28, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I bought this after hearing it mentioned on a Radio Lab episode thinking it would be an interesting read about infant brain development while I'm expecting our second child. The book is half memoir and half neuroscience but I found the book's split personality kept it from really being good at either attempt. The memoir sections read like forced and impersonal accounts included only to transition between scientific studies. The scientific studies are too often things that one would find in "What to Expect" which was not the level that I was expecting. Overall this book was neither a good memoir or a good neuroscience read, the latter being what I was really hoping for, and it left me very disappointed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A grandmother's view July 21, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
I still haven't finished A Thousand Days of Wonder (love the title) because I'm savoring the prose and beauty. This is a fascinating trip through the garden of a child's mind, from the beginning to the end of year three. Even more fascinating for me is that some of it takes place in Australia where I have a granddaughter who is expecting. I love the parts that focus on the little girl and skip the parts that are too scientific.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars interesting, easy read June 3, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a great book that talks about current research in the context of telling the story of Charles Fernyhough's daughter's infancy and early childhood. It's very readable and approachable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The author bridges the considerable gap between his perspective and that of his infant daughter's. With a scientist's eye, he examines what the world looks and feels like as a child's senses and mind develop.

Handy if you want to understand how your baby behaviours and the way they experience their surroundings and those they interact with.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great book July 9, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Fun to read these observations, watching a child develop
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3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed Genres July 7, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I started off eagerly on Charles Fernyhough’s scientific inquiry into his daughter’s developing mind. The first part is hard science, the neurological development of the human brain in the fetus and in infancy. Here I learned a lot—most memorably that an infant’s stare is not one of pure adoration but rather a function of its inability to shift its gaze easily. I think anyone interested in babies could benefit from his descriptions and insights here. We see Fernyhough’s daughter, Athena, develop from infancy to toddlerhood. The family temporarily moves from England to Australia, and his description of her anticipation and adjustment to new surroundings is on steady footing.

There follows an idyll while father and daughter set off on various outings while, presumably, Mother is at work. These outings are, of course, Father’s work as well. Here his observations shift a bit from the purely neurological to more developmental. He measures her behavior against various theories of child development—Piaget’s most significantly, as well as Freud’s and Bettleheim’s—and goes on to discuss Bowlby’s attachment theories. Athena emerges as an engaging child, sturdy and steadily gaining independence. She can even cope with the news that a sibling is on the way.

What follows is more memoir than scientific inquiry. His wife miscarries and they fall into a pit of grief. The focus shifts from Athena to a story of lost potential. The author wonders how Athena makes sense of it all, but he neatly sidesteps the topic of trauma during the first five years by quoting Freud that all is forgotten, while he tells Athena a familiar story about God and Heaven. Then, we fast-forward to a seven year-old Athena with a sturdy baby brother. I felt as though he lost interest in his inquiry, and it was disappointing.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Very good book.
Published 2 months ago by EL
4.0 out of 5 stars A must for the new parent interested in young child development
Well written, and accessible to the average reader with enough science to support the discussions.
Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars A great gift for showers and newborns Moms and Dads
The perfect addition to a baby shower or new baby gift. Readable, incredibly, good for Dads as well as Moms.
Published 4 months ago by Anne D. Terry
5.0 out of 5 stars My go-to gift for expectant friends
We were given this book when we were expecting our first baby and it was such a refreshing change from all the nappy-changing/baby-whispering/contented-little-baby books. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Ms Gillian L Cull
5.0 out of 5 stars So interesting!
I am reading this book during my sons first 1000 days, and it is fascinating. I highly recommend reading this book if you have a newborn. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Angela Vance
5.0 out of 5 stars Got a new kid? Are you a bit of a nerd?
Neuroscientist watches his growing baby and tells you what's going on (chemically and structurally) in that growing brain. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Reluctant Consumer
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful overview of development
I work with children, I see this development first hand and in often a very different way than parents see it. Read more
Published on November 30, 2012 by Jessica
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book for those who are interested in how a baby's brain...
I first heard of this book while listening to NPR. There was an interview with the author and after listening to it, I was eager to read the book. Read more
Published on March 8, 2012 by Monkey Momma
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read, a little dry
Having just watched my first daughter take this journey, and now expecting my next, I thought this would be a perfect time to read a book about the development of a toddler's... Read more
Published on January 10, 2012 by Todd B.
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More About the Author

Charles Fernyhough is an award-winning writer and psychologist. His most recent book, A Thousand Days of Wonder: A Scientist's Chronicle of His Daughter's Developing Mind, was a Parade magazine pick of the week and has been translated into seven languages. The author of two novels, The Auctioneer and A Box of Birds, Fernyhough has written for the Guardian, the Financial Times, and the Sunday Telegraph; contributes to public radio's Radiolab; blogs for Psychology Today; and is a Reader in Psychology at Durham University, UK. Pieces of Light was a Sunday Times, Sunday Express, and New Scientist book of the year. Further details are available at www.charlesfernyhough.com.

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