cover image Among Schoolchildren

Among Schoolchildren

Tracy Kidder. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $21.95 (340pp) ISBN 978-0-395-47591-1

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. Author tour. (Sept.)