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No Biking in the House Without a Helmet Hardcover – April 12, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. With four children of their own, Atlanta journalist Greene (There Is No Me Without You) and her husband, a criminal defense attorney, gradually adopted five more—one from Bulgaria and four from Ethiopia—to create a roiling, largehearted family unit. In her whimsical, hilarious account, she pokes fun at her own initial cluelessness regarding the adoption process, which the couple began after Greene suffered a miscarriage in her mid-40s; they procured an "adoption doctor" to advise them on the risks of adopting institutionalized babies from Russian and Bulgarian orphanages (e.g., the baby's head measurements and appearance in videos might indicate developmental problems). After several trips to a rural Bulgarian orphanage, they brought home a four-year-old Roma boy they renamed Jesse; Greene writes frankly about her own moments of "post-adoption panic" and doubts about attachment. Subsequently, as her older children headed out to college, new ones arrived: the humanitarian HIV/AIDS crisis in Ethiopia resolved the couple to adopt healthy, five-year-old Helen, orphaned when her family was decimated by the disease; then nine-year-old Fisseha, and two brothers, Daniel and Yosef, whom Greene's older biological son Lee befriended while working at another Ethiopian orphanage. The family often felt like a "group home," as Greene depicts engagingly, yet despite periods of tension and strife, such as the discovery of living parents and sibling rivalry, Greene captures the family's triumphant shared delight in one another's differences. (May)
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Love knows no bounds--and no borders--in journalist Greene's ebullient valentine to her family of nine children . . . 'Who made you the Old Woman Who Lives in a Shoe?' a friend quips, but Greene doesn't apologize. Instead, she shows what it means to knit together a family that 'steers by the light . . . of what feels right and true.' (Caroline Leavitt, People (four stars))
Readers . . . will find plenty of hilarity in this romping account of [Greene's] boisterous brood . . . [she] brings her well-honed research and reporting skills to this very personal story . . . this joy--experiencing it and conveying it to readers--is her greatest success. (Suki Casanave, The Washington Post)
No Biking in the House Without a Helmet is [Melissa Fay Greene's] sprawling, imperfect, courageous and joyful account of the adoption process, warts and all--the heart-wrenching trips to orphanages, frustrating delays, visits with living relatives, and the way her family welcomed and made room for each child, as well as the inevitable homesickness and culture clashes and sometimes rocky emotional terrain . . . The moral of her story? Just the opposite of the title's warning. Don't be afraid to break the rules, to 'steer by the light of what makes us laugh, what makes us feel good'--especially if it means biking in the house, with or without a helmet. With deep compassion, sparkling humor and an unshakable faith in the power of the whoopee cushion, she leads the way. (Gina Webb, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Moving, enlightening, and surprisingly funny ... No Biking in the House Without a Helmet ... folds an adoption primer into a meditation on family. (Sara Nelson, O, The Oprah Magazine)
Joyful and big-hearted . . . This funny and frankly personal book is a departure for Greene, whose previous work has been sober and measured. The title sounds like a madcap domestic comedy in the tradition of Jean Kerr and Erma Bombeck, which it sometimes is. But Greene's humor is less acerbic, her persona less addled . . . Greene is such an open and self-deprecating narrator she makes every addition to her family seem like the most natural and beautiful move in the world, 'each child--whether homemade or foreign born--a revelation, a treasure.' The ability to write brilliant books with a houseful of children is clearly the least of Greene's gifts. (Jennifer Reese, NPR.org)
There are funny parenting books and wise parenting books. Rarely a funny and wise parenting book. Melissa Fay Greene really does have nine children, five of whom were adopted from foreign orphanages--but this book isn't a treacly, multicultural 'Brady Bunch.' Neither moralistic nor preachy, this memoir is about what it's like to have heart, and grow children with heart. In another writer's less deft hands, children who herded goats in Ethiopia and then relocated to a big old house in Atlanta could have become a Southern Jewish version of Brad and Angelina. Greene captures the wild vicissitudes of her family's life and how individual difference enriches them all. (Elizabeth Taylor, Chicago Tribune)
For the past 21 years Melissa Fay Greene has been raising nine children, both biological and adopted. In her memoir No Biking in the House Without a Helmet, she writes of the many parenting obstacles she has encountered, overcome, and met again as the rules change completely for her second wave of children. Talk about a story for the ages. (Town & Country)
A truly heartfelt memoir . . . [Greene] resists the urge to be cloying, however, infusing each chapter with a strong dose of humor and not shying away from the difficulties presented by adopting older children . . . It's all one big, happy family but also a very real one. Call them the twenty-first-century Waltons, and revel in the joy they have found and brought home for keeps. (Colleen Mondor, Booklist (starred review))
Greene is a writer of emotional impact . . . Her words are flush with humanity and all the messiness and comedy that humanity trails in its wake. She goes the distance, which is a beautiful thing to behold . . . Eventually, an enveloping sweetness and involvement swept away all but what is elementally grand about being a parent and nursing a child. An upbeat chronicle of a life that has been lived on the bright side of the road, its ruts beveled by naked love. (Kirkus Reviews)
Joy to the world. Line by glorious line, with raw honesty and unforced hilarity, Melissa Fay Greene tells the story of the true mega-family of the millennium, which is not some reality-show curiosity shop, but her very own nine children: those who came home from the hospital and those who came home from the airport. People often assure me that I'll laugh and cry reading a book. I may smile; I may feel a lump in my throat. But I wept a dozen times reading No Biking and woke my own kids up with my laughter, as I stayed up all night with this, the Cheaper by the Dozen for a new planet. Melissa Fay Greene never set out to raise the world, only to raise her children. With this book, she raises the bar, wherever the word 'family' is spoken, for every single one of us. (Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean and Second Nature: A Love Story)
The funniest part of this book is not the fact that several of Melissa Fay Greene's nine children were once Ethiopian goat herders. The funniest part is that she has nine children. She not only loves and appreciates every one, she brings them all to vivid life with affection, exasperation, candor, and (indispensable, under the circumstances) humor. I went from Are you kidding? to I love these people! in four pages flat. (Marilyn Johnson, author of This Book Is Overdue!)
Brimming with humor and love, the story of Greene's ever-expanding family is both unique and universal. Not everyone watches a son spear a Frisbee in mid-flight or weave a bullwhip out of the suburban shrubbery. But everyone at some point asks what it means to be a parent, a sibling, a family. Greene answers these questions with wit and wisdom. I finished her book with a renewed conviction that it is possible to shrink this wide world and to begin to bridge the chasms that have opened between us. (Geraldine Brooks, author of People of the Book and March)
About every five years, we get a book from Melissa Fay Greene. I've learned to wait for them eagerly, always excited to know what this thoughtful, sensitive writer is going to do next. Now--No Biking in the House Without a Helmet. That title tells you in no uncertain terms that you will laugh, but there's a lot more in these pages than humor, including Melissa's trademark generosity, optimism, winning self-deprecation, and high spirits. As a writer, a reader, and--like Melissa--the parent of an adopted child, I'm glad to know that this book will soon be out, and I hope it finds a very large audience. (David Guterson, author of The Other and Snow Falling on Cedars)
Top customer reviews
The book is delightful and enchanting in every possible way. I've always loved Melissa Fay Greene's writing. Her prose invites you in, makes you feel like the people she's writing about are your friends and neighbors. I remember feeling that way about Praying for Sheetrock, too. With "No Biking," I felt like I was in on the jokes, laughing and crying alongside her. I don't want to over or understate how funny this book is, because I certainly laughed a lot. My husband began to get seriously annoyed when I kept wanting to read funny parts aloud to him because he wants to read it himself. "Really, really, this part won't ruin the book for you!" stopped working after the half dozen times I invoked it. But while it is entertaining, and funny, and her ability to find humor where some of us might have missed it is a gift -- the book is so much more.
While I have two children, and not 9, I read the book as a mother and learned more about myself and what I aspire to be as a mother. With all the recent hoopla about the Tiger Mother in my mind while I read it, I thought "I want to be a Melissa Mother"--generous, honest, present, loving, pointing my children in the right direction and letting them be both their individual selves and an integral part of the family unit. I also read the book as a wife and was inspired by both the tenderness and the candor of the writer and her husband's relationship.
A few years back, I went to a lecture by a child psychologist about what makes a child a resilient child. There were a few, surprisingly simple, things that resilient children had in common. One was that they eat at least one meal a week with their whole family. The Greene-Samuel family has plenty of those--especially as she points out in the book, that no one has invited them over for dinner as a family since 1998! Another was that the children had heard the stories of their family's history and particularly it's ups and downs. With a gifted storyteller for a mother, and with her commitment to maintain her children's connections with their personal histories, their families, their Ethiopian and Romani and their Jewish communities--these will likely be some of the most successful and resilient children ever. Whether it's as writers, musicians or star athletes--I have a feeling we will hear more about these kids in the future.
Your book is...
well how can I put into words something that I am afraid to pick up, because then I just can't put it down. I read fast. I always have, my nickname as a small child was Bookie. My party trick was to pick up a book at age 2, turn it upside down and read it!
I don't want your book to end. I want to discover that instead of the 351 pages, it suddenly has 600 or even 900!!
Reality is, I am nearly at the end. Sigh.
Please let there be a sequel.
thank you. your adoring fan.
p.s. In case some readers are wondering... I do not work for any sort of publishing house etc. I am just a mom of three kids. Two of whom were born in Ethiopia....
After our first child was born, a nurse reminded me that children don't come with a manual, but if they did, No Biking in the House without a Helmet would be an excellent one. Melissa and Don value each child as an individual. They see their strengths and weaknesses and love them wholeheartedly. What a perfect way to be a parent!