From School Library Journal
Carol Fazioli, formerly at The Brearley School, New York City
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Why a book on just the early years? "There are several good biographies that cover his whole life," Cooper explains. "I wanted to focus on him as a child and teenager. He faced all kinds of pressure--ill health, an intense sibling relationship, mixed family messages, prejudice against Irish Catholics in America--but he was able to maintain his own identity. I also wanted to write about what it was like to be a child in this remarkable, yet highly pressurized, family. Kennedy never wrote or spoke much about his growing-up years, so I was excited to see what I could find out."
She found out plenty. Delving into Kennedy's life, Cooper was fascinated to discover a boyhood that was unique in its circumstances yet achingly familiar in its reflection of the ways children try to find themselves as they grow up.
To fill out her portrait, she visited places where Jack spent his formative years--his birthplace in Brookline, Massachusetts, now a national historic site; Hyannis, where the family spent summers; and Wallingford, Connecticut, where Kennedy went to boarding school at Choate. The travel, she says, helped her put herself in the place of the young Kennedy. It was her several visits to the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library in Boston, however, that meant the most to her. She spent time at the library going through Kennedy family papers, including several privately published books. She also found JFK's report cards and letters he wrote as a schoolboy, some of which are published in Jack. The experience of working in the library--and touring the museum that is also part of the building--was particularly meaningful for Cooper, who had helped raised money for its construction after JFK's assassination.
The quality of the research in jack shows both in the way background history is seamlessly interwoven with biography and in the extensive source notes. Jack brings not just a boy to life but also a period in American history--the period between the two world wars.
At the Kennedy Library, Cooper also discovered a wealth of family photographs, a number of which illustrate Jack. She recalls having a great time choosing and placing them in the manuscript. She also remembers her frustration when she couldn't find a photo to fit a piece of text that seemed to call for art. She did, indeed, find some extraordinary pictures--of the Kennedy siblings; of Jack with his father and with his high-school buddies. There's even a shot of a smiling young Kennedy in bed recuperating from one of the many illness that plagued his childhood.
One particular photo stands out for Cooper, a picture of teenage Kennedy looking guardedly at his older brother, Joe, Jr., who is oblivious to Jack's attention. "The expression and body language show the complicated feelings Jack had for Joe, Jr.," she says. "Here was Jack, this child who grew up in an extremely competitive family, with a brother who was designated heir apparent: Joe, the good son; Jack, the irresponsible screwup--who actually grew up to be president. What kid can't relate to a story like that?" Stephanie Zvirin
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.