Genius of Common Sense: Jane Jacobs and the Story of the Death and Life of Great American Cities

Overview

Three books, all written by women in the early 1960s, changed the way we looked at the world and ourselves: Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, and Jane Jacobs's The Death and Life of Great American Cities. All three books created revolutions in their respective spheres of influence, and nothing affected city planning and architecture - or the way we think about how life is lived in densely packed urban centers - more than Jane Jacobs's far-sighted polemic. Here is the first book...

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Overview

Three books, all written by women in the early 1960s, changed the way we looked at the world and ourselves: Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, and Jane Jacobs's The Death and Life of Great American Cities. All three books created revolutions in their respective spheres of influence, and nothing affected city planning and architecture - or the way we think about how life is lived in densely packed urban centers - more than Jane Jacobs's far-sighted polemic. Here is the first book for young people about this heroine of common sense, a woman who never attended college but whose observations, determination, and independent spirit led her to far different conclusions than those of the academics who surrounded her. Illustrated with almost a hundred images, including a great number of photos never before published, this story of a remarkable woman will introduce her ideas and her life to young readers, many of whom have grown up in neighborhoods that were saved by her insights. It will inspire young people - and readers of all ages - and demonstrate that we learn vital life lessons from observing and thinking, and not just accepting what passes as "conventional wisdom."

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Editorial Reviews

ForeWord Reviews
Written for young adults, this story of an independent thinker is a good read for all ages.
Jason Epstein
Jacobs's exemplary life story is well enough told by Glenna Lang and Marjory Wunsch to engage young readers and interest their elders as well.
New York Review of Books
Ruth Conniff
No stodgy history text . . . Genius of Common Sense throbs with [Jacobs's] passionate struggles . . . a handsome book, loaded with primary sources like photographs and contemporary news accounts that bring alive these stories for any teenager wondering how she can make a difference in the world.
New York Times
School Library Journal

Gr 5-8

This is the story of a remarkable woman, brought up during the Depression and with no college education, who single-handedly changed the way America viewed its cities. Short chapters describe how, from Jacobs's beginnings in Scranton, PA, it was clear that this inquisitive, sometimes obstreperous girl had plans for her future. At 18, she moved to New York to pursue her career as a writer and fell in love with the city. It was there that she had her infamous battles with Robert Moses over urban renewal and did the research for her most famous book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities . Black-and-white photographs, maps, and political cartoons and other reproductions appear on most pages. While the biography is not always a page-turner, Lang and Wunsch are to be commended for introducing a fascinating female role model. Excellent notes and a good index enhance the title's usefulness.-Betty S. Evans, Missouri State University, Springfield

Kirkus Reviews
Jane Jacobs is an unlikely subject for a school assignment, which is unfortunate, as being required to do research would be the most likely way that many readers will discover this brief but comprehensive biography. A writer with varied experience, Jacobs brought a wealth of knowledge along with her personal convictions to her work as an activist and critic of the status quo. At a time when city planners were determined to conquer urban blight by destroying buildings and uprooting communities, Jacobs argued for a vision of cities as vibrant, functioning systems whose positive growth could be fostered. That she did so successfully without a degree and during the 1950s and '60s, a time when women's contributions were often overlooked, is impressive indeed. Better known in Canada, where she moved in 1968, Jacobs may be unfamiliar to many teens, but she is definitely worthy of their attention. Wunsch and Lang have done readers a service in introducing her so effectively, including black-and-white photos and drawings as well as diagrams to augment their text. Push during Women's History Month and at every other opportunity. (Biography. 12 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781567924565
  • Publisher: Godine, David R. Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/31/2012
  • Pages: 127
  • Sales rank: 794,531
  • Age range: 11 - 14 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.40 (w) x 9.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Glenna Lang's previous work includes illustrations for four classic poems for children with Godine. She wrote and illustrated the award-winning Looking Out for Sarah. Although she grew up in New York City, she lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and teaches at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Marjory Wunsch has illustrated and written numerous children's books. While studying architecture, she encountered problems of urban design, rehabilitation of old buildings, and the ideas of Jane Jacobs. Marjory and her husband live in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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