“As Paul Tough shows, Canada is a man…who knows what it takes to ensure that every child has a fair shot in life.”--Bill Clinton
"Paul Tough shows, from the inside, how the nation's most important work gets done." – Adrian Nicole Leblanc
“Powerful and hopeful, disturbing and daring, it’s one important book. Essential even.”—Alex Kotlowitz
“Paul Tough takes on one of the biggest questions going: how do you teach people to be successful?”—Stephen Dubner
“[A] moving account of . . . giving Harlem’s children access to the same dreams as children in New York’s most privileged neighborhoods.”—Marian Wright Edelman
"[E]asily the most compelling and potentially the most important book on the problem of poverty in urban America in years."--Michael Pollan
"[A] must-read for any American committed to solving our nation's greatest social injustice"—Wendy Kopp, Teach for America
“The question of whether these terribly disadvantaged kids will fail or succeed takes on all the nail-biting urgency of any high-stakes, novelistic thriller.” —Elizabeth Gilbert
“[This] account of this visionary man in Harlem changed my understanding of poverty in America it …made me feel hopeful.”—Ira Glass
" [T]his book gives readers a solid look at the problems facing poor communities and their reformers, as well as good cause to be optimistic about the future."
"Outstanding literary nonfiction, distinguished by in-depth reporting, compelling writing and deep thinking." Kirkus Reviews, Starred
"A remarkable book ... a story more gripping and inspiring than you'd imagine social policy could possibly be." Gentleman's Quarterly
"This unflinching book will motivate us all to take action and make our schools places of possibility and hope."--Essence
"This is an engrossing look at a visionary man and a bold experiment" Booklist, ALA, Starred Review
Canada called his crusade the Harlem Children's Zone and chose a 24-block section of Harlem as his laboratory. Paul Tough, an editor at the New York Times Magazine, began tracking the effort in 2003. The result is Whatever It T akes, a you-are-there recording of the project's development, amazing growth and potential promiseand an informed primer on the correlation between race, poverty and the achievement gap in America. This is a serious book about a pressing issue, but Tough manages to make it an easy read with a cast of sympathetic characters…We don't know how this story will end. Time will tell if Geoffrey Canada has hit on what it will take to break the cycle of poverty in America. In the meantime, there are lessons to be learned from the Harlem Children's Zoneabout the power of an idea, the role culture plays in student achievement, accountability, the indomitable human spirit. This book should be on every policymaker's reading list.
The Washington Post
…when it comes to an introduction to the debate about poverty and parenting in urban America, you could hardly do better than Tough's book. The children of the uneducated and impoverished too often bear a gloomy inheritance, their futures set in stone from an early age. Within Canada's 97 blocks, Tough finds a different kind of legacyone shaped by parents who have learned to pay attention to their children's developmental needs. With a support network unlike anything else in America, the children of Harlem can envision a future so many others expect as a matter of course.
The New York Times
New York Times journalist Tough profiles educational visionary Geoffrey Canada, whose Harlem Children's Zone-currently serving more than 7,000 children and encompassing 97 city blocks-represents an audacious effort to end poverty within underserved communities. Canada's radical experiment is predicated upon changing everything in these communities-creating an interlocking web of services targeted at the poorest and least likely to succeed children: establishing programs to prepare and support parents, a demanding k-8 charter school and a range of after-school programs for high school students. Tough adeptly integrates the intensely personal stories of the staff, students and teachers of the Children's Zone with expert opinions and the broiling debates over poverty, race and education. The author's admiration for Canada and his "social experiment" is obvious yet tempered by journalistic restraint as he summarizes the current understanding of the causes of poverty and academic underperformance-and their remedies. Smoothly narrated, affecting and heartening, this book gives readers a solid look at the problems facing poor communities and their reformers, as well as good cause to be optimistic about the future. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
New York Times Magazine editor Tough profiles an ambitious effort to simultaneously address the seemingly eternal societal problems of poverty, class stratification, educational underachievement and racial discrimination. Frustrated by the limited number of people he could help in his job at a nonprofit organization providing services for at-risk youth, Geoffrey Canada in 1999 founded a large-scale initiative eventually dubbed the Harlem Children's Zone. He believed that to truly make a difference in a disadvantaged community, he must provide comprehensive services to residents from birth (or earlier) until death. With money raised privately as well as from government entities, Canada formulated programs providing prenatal care, instruction in parenting skills, early childhood education, K-12 schooling and help with the college-application process. The breadth and depth of his vision was either breathtaking or breathtakingly impractical, depending on your point of view. The author, though obviously an admirer, delineates the problems with Canada's program theory and its implementation as well as the strengths. While doing so, he moves seamlessly among three areas, situating accounts of Canada's life and policies within the larger context of previous movements to alleviate the consequences of poverty, class and race. Tough shows even the most naive reader how difficult it is to grapple with the question of how to take an entire community of mostly disadvantaged children and mostly undereducated parents without financial resources and transform them-or at least the children as they grow-into fully functioning members of the middle class. To the extent that Canada is succeeding, the authorattributes a portion of the victory to his ability to appeal to donors and volunteers across the political spectrum. Neither Democrats nor Republicans nor independents can articulate sound reasons to oppose this visionary socioeconomic experiment. Outstanding literary nonfiction, distinguished by in-depth reporting, compelling writing and deep thinking. Agent: David McCormick/Collins McCormick