Tracy Kidder — the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Soul of a New Machine and the extraordinary national bestseller House — spent nine months in Mrs. Zajac's fifth-grade classroom in the depressed "Flats" of Holyoke, Massachusetts. For an entire year he lived among twenty schoolchildren and their indomitable, compassionate teacher — sharing their joys, their catastrophes, and their small but essential triumphs. As a result, he has written a revealing, remarkably poignant account of education in America . . . and his most memorable, emotionally charged, and important book to date.
For the full text of Phyllis Theroux's review of Among Schoolchildren in The New York Times Book Review, click here.
"Christine Zajac teaches fifth grade in a racially mixed school in a poor district of Holyoke, Mass. About half of her students are Hispanic; many come from broken homes. Through Kidder's calmly detailed re-creation of Zajac's daily round, we come to know her students' fears and inmost strivings; we also share this teacher's frustrations, loneliness and the rush of satisfaction that comes with helping students learn. It's a tough job: in one social studies class, half the pupils can't name the country they live in. Kidder (House; The Soul of a New Machine) writes with sensitivity of Zajac's Irish-Catholic roots, of the need for educational reform and of the Holyoke Puerto Ricans' struggles for equality and success. We see Kelly School as a compelling microcosm of what is wrong—and right—with our educational system."
"Many readers have come to expect that anything authored by Kidder (House, LJ 8/85; Soul of a New Machine, LJ 8/81) will be of high merit. This latest nonfiction work is no exception. It tells in detail the story of a young teacher's daily life and work in the Kelly School, a part of the Holyoke, Massachusetts school system. From September to June, Chris Zajac, a caring, dedicated teacher struggles with the nearly superhuman task of teaching inner-city children, many from impoverished and broken homes. Her pupils are often ill-fed, victims of severe neglect, or worse. Readers will become engrossed in her daily battle to teach these youngsters. (Over half stay up until 12:30 a.m. to watch TV). She agonizes over her pupils, one Clarence in particular. Kidder allows the reader to savor the small daily victories and taste the angst of failure. A warm, honest, refreshingly positive look inside a classroom."
For the full text of Associated Content's review of Among Schoolchildren, click here.