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Three Little Words: A Memoir Hardcover – January 8, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

“I felt as worthless as the junk in my trash bag . . . once again, I was the one being tossed out and thrown away.” Taken from her mother when she was scarcely four years old, Rhodes-Courter spent the next nine years in foster care with “more than a dozen so-called mothers.” “Some were kind,” she acknowledges, “a few were quirky and one . . . was as wicked as a fairy-tale witch.” She names names in this memoir, which is also a searing indictment of an often sadly deficient system of child care. Given her experiences, one can understand why she is angry and often bitter, but the unrelieved stridency of her tone makes for sometimes difficult reading. Nevertheless, she gives a voice to countless thousands of children who continue to be abused, abandoned, and ignored, and one hopes her book will make a positive difference in their lives. Grades 8-12. --Michael Cart


"Ashley Rhodes-Courter is triumphant in her quest to overcome insurmountable odds. I celebrate her courage to seek out the best in humanity in spite of its failings." - Victoria Rowell, New York Times bestselling author of The Women Who Raised Me: A Memoir

"Nine years in the foster care system could ruin a kid. But [Ashley] not only survived, she's thrived." -Teen People

"The author's ability to form intelligent, open-minded conclusions about her traumatic childhood demonstrates her remarkable control and insight, and although there are plenty of wrenching moments, she succeeds not in attracting pity but in her stated intention, of drawing attention to the children who currently share the plight that she herself overcame." --Publishers Weekly

"Quiet scenes cut deepest: the author's description of her only after-school visit to a friend's home lingers heartbreakingly in one's mind. This gifted young writer's moving and eye-opening story will especially appeal to fans of Jeannette Walls's The Glass Castle and David Pelzer's autobiographical books." --School Library Journal

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (January 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416948066
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416948063
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (362 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #580,646 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

162 of 167 people found the following review helpful By Inkhorn VINE VOICE on January 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Yesterday, my laundry hamper was full to overflowing demanding attention as I opened this book. I had seen the author on Good Morning America, and this seemed like an interesting story.

As I started to read thoughts of laundry disappeared, as I was riveted by this compelling story, of a little girl who just wanted to be loved by her mother, or a family.

I could not put this book down until I finished.

It was like I was there looking on as she went through these various ordeals/ adventures.

If you are considering adopting or fostering a child, this book is a must. As you read, you will understand what these children have to go through. That understanding brings compassion. You will also understand what would be parents go through because both sides of the story are told effectively.

If you work in childcare services, this ought to be required reading.

If you are like me, this is an inspiring story about surviving and succeeding against the odds. You may notice this story has a mythical quality, reminiscent of other stories like Oliver Twist, a Roald Dahl story, or even Anne of Green Gables or Harry Potter which the author refers to, except this is for real.

It is shocking to me how a system which is designed to protect children, can fail so miserably at times. How is it possible for a home that is only licensed to have two children end up with 10. How come foster children end up living in a trailer? The children do not have a voice that is heard.

I particularly commend Gay Courter her adoptive mother who also persisted against the odds, where some adoptive parents would have given up. She ended up with a remarkable child who has written a remarkable book, who I feel sure will continue to be a voice for foster children, and orphans.

Hope this was useful.
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64 of 67 people found the following review helpful By S. Flynn on December 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Ashley Rhodes-Courter's memoir is must reading for anyone who cares about children and their welfare. This brave young woman's account of the long road she traveled after being forcibly removed from her birth mother's care to eventually finding security with a family who nurtures her in ways she never could have imagined is a heartbreaker. While the often terrifying journey ends well for Ashley, we know there are thousands more "lost" children out there who will never be as smart, as determined--or as lucky. Now twenty-two and a successful crusader for those caught in the foster-care system as she was--almost interminably--Ashley Rhodes-Courter stands as witness that there has to be a better way to deal with the children left behind when "the state" decides their parents are unfit. Three Little Words (they are not the ones you think) is an incredibly well-written tale, all the more powerful for the fact that every word is true.
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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Cathy Goodwin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 31, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Although I generally like memoirs, too often I get bogged down in boring minutiae of dysfunctional families. This one was different. I was surprised to find I couldn't put it down.

Rhodes-Courter can write. She vividly describes her years in foster care, being totally honest about herself and the families who were paid to care for her. Mercifully, she knows just how far to go before reader fatigue sets in, and she knows exactly where to stop to leave us disturbed but not overwhelmed.

Anyone who read the author's New York Times piece knows the happy ending: Rhodes-Courter was adopted by a loving family that was uniquely qualified to appreciate her gifts and help her grow as a writer and speaker. As a bonus, she gained two older brothers (they look like teddy bear types) and a houseful of cats.

But we're made to realize there was no fairy tale magic. Ashley Rhodes arrived in the Courter family as a scared, suspicious kid. She didn't know how to hug and she was a picky eater who would drive most people mad. She tested her family over and over again.

Gradually, she became a real family member. Her new brothers teased her when she avoided helping with the dishes ("Hey, are you a guest?") Her mother went along with the food fuss. Her dad was, well, a dad. And she admits she came to realize just how lucky she was,

In what may be the most powerful part of the book, Rhodes-Courter asks a very good question. Why do states pay a fortune for foster care instead of subsidizing the birth parents? What would have happened if her own mother had been given money and support to keep her own children? And why does the state ignore reports of abuse in a foster home yet whisk children away from their own parents at the slightest hint of a problem?

Just stay away from this book if you're on deadline. It sucks you in.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Book lover and Teacher on January 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Three Little Words is an honest and powerful memoir which shares the painful details of Ashley Rhodes-Courter's nine year journey through the foster care system, while it also conveys a message of inner strength and hope. I applaud Ashley for bravely sharing her story and commend this young woman for her on-going efforts to help the children in the foster care system.
-Suzanne Buckingham Slade, author of Adopted: The Ultimate Teen Guide
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Jenny S. Sills on February 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is an absoultely incredable book. I cried at times remembering my own experience as a DFCS case worker whose hands were often tied by rules and court orders that made little sense to me. I could only imagine what it did to the children I worked with. I like to tink that I was one of the good ones, caring about my kids and doing my best to protect them and represent their needs in court. I hope I was. What an amazing story of intelligence and resillance in Ashley. I hope and pray that all continues to well with her and her brother.
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