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A Thousand Days of Wonder: A Scientist's Chronicle of His Daughter's Developing Mind Hardcover – April 2, 2009
"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Learn more
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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."
"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."
"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."
"A book that takes the reader right to the heart of how we become human and how we deal with it."
"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."
About the Author
CHARLES FERNYHOUGH studied developmental psychology at Cambridge University and is now a part-time lecturer in psychology at Durham University. He lives in County Durham, England, with his wife and two children. He is the author of the novel The Auctioneer and more than thirty research articles.
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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.
I have three children. I'm lucky that as I've had the opportunity to observe their development 24/7. Even so, they did have some behaviors that have perplexed me and it was really neat to read some of the scientific reasoning behind their behaviors. This book went into more depth than most child development books. However, I do wish it would have gone in even deeper as I left wanting more.
It was easy to relate to the author in is experiences with his daughter. I recognized many of the behaviors and situations that he mentioned. I also really loved that he seemed to really enjoy the time he spent with his daughter. Even though this book is written from a scientist's point of view, It is obvious that he really put his heart into writing this book.
While this isn't applicable to most people and wasn't the point of the book - it also helped me realize some of the differences between toddlers with autism-related disorders. I have a son with Aspergers, and while reading this book, I could kind of see how he was developing differently from the beginning. I think that if I had read this book before he was born, it would have alerted me to these differences earlier on.
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.