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Hothouse Kids: The Dilemma of the Gifted Child Hardcover – August 17, 2006

2.8 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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 Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press; 1 edition (August 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594200955
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594200953
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,252,458 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gary Robson on December 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Ms. Quart turned a phone conversation and a few e-mails into parts of pp. 137-38. The author mistakenly has me calling my son "scary" when the entire description came from one of my son's adult opponents in chess. The man shared with me how he himself had felt as if he were being judged by the little boy sitting across from him and how scary it was for him. I shared that story with Ms. Quart, but she confused the speakers. I've made mistakes before, so I can understand such an error. Fortunately, my little boy thought that the line was funny.

There was another error, too. In our brief correspondence I explained that one of the differences between the "good" chess parents and the "bad" ones was that the "bad" ones took ownership of their children's success and had lived such miserable lives that they were now living through their children. Ms. Quart transformed that sharing into the following "quote" attributed to me: "I am following him. I think about what I could have done. For all chess parents, it's too late. You live through your children." There is a limit to one's poetic license.

Much of the rest of the four paragraphs is accurate, namely the events we've been to, the make and year of our car, the reference to the Donald Hall poem, and my general disinterest in wealth for the sake of wealth. I hope that I didn't say, "Ray's so skinny, he has to sit up on his knees so he can see the board." That's a ridiculous sentence. :)

I have two more thoughts to share. If such errors as noted above can occur in my little part, I wonder if the quotes attributed to others were as faulty. If so, I am not sure how much value the book has. I would be interested to hear from any others who were interviewed to see if my case was the norm or the exception.
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Format: Hardcover
Whoa! I was expecting a well-written study of the lives and perspectives of

young geniuses and high-IQ adults from this New York Times journalist.

Instead, "Hothouse Kids" insults and distorts the subject and subjects of


The author skewers everyone she meets: parents,"gifted" study educators

and researchers, educational product developers and competitive events

organizers, even the bright children--whom she pities for what she sees as their

their "nerdish freakiness".

A former smart girl herself, the author can't seem to find anyone likeable

in the subculture she has chosen to explore. She pokes fun at how these

people look, the clothes they wear, the cars they drive. One mother of a

brilliant child, for example, has hair "suitable for a Journey music

video." Another walks with a "jerky gait which combines a limp and a

strut". One man has "wiry clown hair", another communicates through

"swaggering body language". A gifted child's build reminds the author of

"Matt Damon on a stretching rack" (whatever that means). Somebody has a

"lazy eye", someone else rolls her eyes (which is, apparently, too "Gen X"),

and a respected leader in the field of gifted education is accused of

dressing like "a mystic". One family's kitchen, where the author was

welcomed, confided in, and provided with food and drink, is criticized as

"rickety--even eccentric". The meal, too, is weird, not up to the author's

standards. Apparently, she finds everyone in the "hothouse" she is studying

to be strange and distasteful.
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Format: Hardcover
Alissa Quart's book takes a particular position which it advances relentless and articulately: Identifying and providing targeted services for gifted children is a form of harm which deprives them of childhood, freedom and a chance to develop without becoming parental "projects." As a prodigy herself, she felt harmed by being identified as gifted; ergo it is bad for all gifted children.

She makes as good a case as I've read, but I doubt that any single solution works for all children. As one of the people she interviewed in the book as having expertise in this area, I see some of the children she describes but I also see the children who are floundering without accommodation. What about the 5-year-old considered "too immature" to be advanced from first grade into second, but her immaturity disappears when she is actually given books at her actual reading level? Would anyone have given her the 4th grade books in class if someone with and alphabet after her name and objective test results hadn't documented it? How many times would she have read "Pat the Bunny" before getting a little punchy?

There is a reason that gifted is mentioned under the section on Attention Deficit Disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV TR). It reminds all of us in the mental health business that we need to make certain that we aren't labeling and medication children who are simply academically underchallenged. Crushing boredom isn't therapeutic and children don't respond well to it. Bored kids entertain themselves in ways that are sometimes disruptive, thoughtless and annoying. Some of these kids aren't relishing the lack of academic pressure; they are being given prescriptions for Ritalin.
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