Posts Tagged ‘ The Spark ’

Parents Picks: My Top 5 Books of 2013

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

After reading and skimming more than 100 books this year it’s no easy task to tell you which ones are my favorites. But I sat down, poured a beer and perused my overflowing bookshelf. It was so much fun to revisit Pamela Druckerman‘s Bebe by Day, Christina Baker Kline’s Orphan Train and Kristine Barnett‘s The Spark. They are easily among my top 12.

But if I absolutely had to whittle it down, here are my Top 5 Books of 2013. These are the books that stayed with me all year long–the ones I went on and on about until my husband’s eyes glazed over. These titles were so fresh that I fired off Facebook statuses and emails about them.

What about you? What are your favorites of 2013?

Here are mine:

1. Lean In
by Sheryl Sandberg
She stepped up to the plate this year and said what hasn’t been said before to women. Just because women want to have families and careers doesn’t mean we need to start planning for it straight out of college. She encourages women to go out there and claim what’s ours in the workplace. Wait to figure out your next steps until you’re actually pregnant. That’s advice I wish I’d had when I was getting started in 1999. Sheryl is a cool chick who has her gender’s back on every page. Take this: “’Ask a man to explain his success and he will typically credit his own innate qualities and skills. …A woman… will attribute her success to external factors, insisting she did well because she ‘worked really hard or ‘got lucky’ or ‘had help from others.’”

2. The Still Point of the Turning World
by Emily Rapp
I’ve wondered for months how Emily Rapp is doing. She lost her dear son Ronan to Tay-Sachs earlier this year around the time her memoir came out. This wasn’t the run-of-the-mill tragedy. She was unapologetically angry and fiercely sweet. Her frustration and struggle–without the religious backdrop and sentimentality–made her achingly real. She’s real in a way that I will never forget. I’m not sorry for her. I’m inspired by her book that drips with meaning and poetry.

3. Let Them Be Eaten by Bears
by Peter Brown Hoffmeister
Thanks to this book, I’ve taken my kids hiking this year for the first times ever. Right in the beginning, he writes, “With kids, we don’t get out much. It’s too hard.” That resonated with me. I’ve been saying this to my husband since my babies were first born. Now they are 8! And they had never really been outside beyond the backyard or park. Thanks to Hoffmeister’s playful and inspiring approach, we even got our butts off the couch and went camping. I let the kids wander the playground, too, and with bare feet just to make Peter even more proud of me.

4. Orange is the New Black
by Piper Kerman
If you’re tired of books and shows about desperate women chasing dreams of men, careers and babies, this one is for you. It’s got very little to do with anything you’ve probably ever read before. This memoir, which formed the fictionalized–but equally awesome Netflix TV show–is about a nice girl who graduates from college and goes buck crazy. She lands a hot, rich girlfriend who just happens to smuggle drugs internationally. Piper runs cash in this operation just one time, and she soon leaves the relationship. She becomes a nice, normal straight woman again. But the feds catch up with her 10 years later, and she winds up in federal prison for a year while her real-life fiance waits for her. The inner workings–and indecencies–of the prison system are fascinating. Her life isn’t as whack as it is in the show, (Piper and Pennsytucky became friends for real) but Piper blasts your thoughts right open. This was a unique read.

5. Until I Say Goodbye
by Susan Spencer-Wendel 
Whenever I’ve felt kind of bad this year, I reminded myself of Susan Spencer-Wendel. She lives with ALS everyday, but she isn’t sad. Instead, she does everything her heart desires, including getting makeup tattooed on her face for when she could no longer apply it herself. While she still can, she goes on an epic trip with her longtime best friend to see the Northern Lights. She takes her teenage daughter wedding dress shopping because that’s something she doesn’t want the two of them to miss. Susan’s book did make me weepy–just once–but mostly she made me laugh. Her life has purpose and meaning, and it makes me more aware of what I’m doing with my own. Her book was optioned, and a film sounds like its in the works.

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What If a Teacher Told You Your Son Would Never Read? Kristine Barnett, Author of ‘The Spark’ Refused to Give Up

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

When a preschool teacher told Kristine Barnett that her autistic son would never read–so she shouldn’t bother teaching him–she pulled him out of class. Ever since then, she’s been completely devoted to Jacob. They found out that his IQ is higher than Einstein’s, and by age 9, he was working on an original theory in astrophysics that may put him in line for a Nobel Prize someday. Kristine’s book, The Spark: A Mother’s Journey of Nurturing Genius is a testament to her love for and belief in her son who’s potential could’ve gone untapped. Today, Jacob is a teenager and taking graduate level classes. You might have seen him on YouTube or TV. Keep on eye on this book–it’s even been optioned for a movie.
Below, Kristine talks about her extraordinary son and popular book.
KK: In three sentences, how would you describe what your book is about?
KB: The Spark is an inspirational memoir that narrates my journey with her remarkable child who was once locked in the silent world of autism and later, despite all odds, emerged to become one of the world’s youngest astrophysics researchers. Through love and perseverance, me and my son Jacob led an entire community of autistic children to achieve remarkable results that would surprise experts and help to redefine what the autism label means. Beyond this, the story points the way to unlocking the untapped potential or spark that perhaps lies deep within all of us!
KK: How old was your son when doctors told you he would never learn? How old was he when you knew differently?
KB: When Jacob was 3 years old, his special education teacher told us that he would never need to learn the alphabet. Against the advice of everyone including my own husband, I pulled him out of special ed and began to work with him on my own. Through play and typical childhood childhood experiences as well as focusing on what he could do, rather than his shortcomings, I began to see results. I had never given up on Jacob’s potential to learn although I knew he faced tremendous challenges. Sometimes it seemed like I was the only one who could see that he was working on something remarkable deep within his silent world. Within six months of taking Jacob out of special education preschool, he was in fact reading without any formal instruction! Later that year at a trip to a local planetarium, Jacob surprised us all by answering college level astronomy questions about the relationship between the mass of the moons of Mars and the gravitational pull of the planet!
KK: What advice do you have for parents of special needs children who are getting less than positive news from their doctors?
KB: Raising a special needs child is one of the hardest things a parent could ever imagine facing. In spite of the overwhelming diagnosis that I was given for Jacob, I never gave up hope. I refused to let myself focus merely on his challenges or to let any label define his potential. Do not forget to focus on your child’s strengths and to celebrate the things that they are drawn to and inspired by. These could be the very things that can lead them to reach the ultimate potential that they have inside of them.
KK: Can you tell us how old your son is now and a little bit about what he has accomplished?
KB: Jacob is now 14, and he is a research scientist in the field of quantum physics. He is the youngest person to ever be published in Physical Review A, a prestigious scientific journal. He takes graduate level classes in mathematics and physics, tutors undergraduate students and has expanded his research to multiple areas including chaotic laser physics, quantum friction and integrable systems. At age 12, Jacob made a YouTube video on calculus that went viral and had over 2 million views. It was seen in every country around the world. He was invited at 13 to New York to give a Tedxteen talk at the Scholastic Auditorium on Broadway that is now the eleventh most watched Tedx talk of all time. This was a remarkable achievement for a boy who was told he would never speak. Jacob has been on CBS News, 60 Minutes and on the Glenn Beck Show on Fox.
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