Friday, April 26, 2013

The Children Are Tender by Linda A. Born

The Children Are Tender is the fictionalized story of a first year teacher in the 1970s.  Author Linda A. Born freely admits Lydia and her students are a compilation of her own teaching days.  Sometimes it is just easier to create a work of fiction. compressing years of experiences and people into one shorter timeframe, than try to strictly adhere to an accurate timeline and cast.   My mother and my aunt were both teachers, starting out in one room schools, and then later teaching in small town school districts.  Myself, I recently retired after working 25 years in education, so I've had many, many teacher friends over the years.  It was a frequent thought among some of those teachers that they had enough "stories' to write a good book someday.  Linda Born must have felt the same way.

Perhaps the most profound statement in the book is the character Ruth's observation, Emotional injury changes the direction of growth in the same way pressure placed on a slender tree trunk will cause it to grow crooked.  Yes, children heal, but heal misshapen.  There is a terrible need for children to be protected so they can grow straight."

Anyone who has spent time in an elementary school (as an adult) will be familiar with this book's ebb and flow:  field trips, holiday programs, struggling students, late nights correcting papers, financial woes, testing dilemmas, and the small victories that come wrapped in sticky hugs and toothless smiles.  I admire Linda Born for actually writing the book that so many of us just twirl around in our minds without ever picking up a pen.  In the end, I wish she had written a memoir of her career.  Within that framework, I would have been more than willing to hear her views on testing, special education, and current trends in education.  To me, when she tried to weave these concerns into her story, some parts seemed to not fit the educational world of the 1970s, at least not as I experienced it.  In the end, I enjoyed the little anecdotes about the children and her farm, but felt the book lacked action and depth    that good fiction needs. I thank the publishers and author for an opportunity to read this title.

I received a copy of this book from Ambassador Intl for review purposes.  All opinions are mine.


  1. There is indeed no murder nor mayhem in this book; it is what might be termed a "feel-good" read. However, the sub-themes of racial prejudice, coping with a parent's dementia, and the heart-rending disappearance of a student in the middle of the night do provide action and depth.

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  4. What I found in The Children Are Tender was a story that resonated with the way I saw and felt about school in the 1970's. As I settled in to read it I found myself journeying back to a simpler time of my life where school lunches were homemade and students went out for recess in the snow. And, yes, there were inservices in the 1970's that I only understood then as a day out of school. Now, after becoming a teacher myself, I realize the impact of the testing mandates started in the late 1970's and early 1980's.

  5. Gosh, I thought a student's risk of electrocution by urination provided quite a lot of action! Joking aside, I must clarify that The Children Are Tender is a work of fiction, not a compilation of my real life teaching experiences. Some stories were indeed inspired by true-life situations, but I created characters, timelines, and settings that conveyed the heart of my teaching experience rather than the strict facts. Regarding historical accuracy, standards driven reform had its inception in the 1970's (see and even earlier (Bloom's Taxonomy, 1956), and so it is not historically inaccurate to speak of testing mandates during the book's time frame of the 1979-80 school year.

  6. As the name implies, "The Children are Tender" is the children, and Lydia's struggle to educate, nurture and protect them . The "testing, special education, and current trends in education" that you would like to see more of are secondary to the story, and are not what most readers of Christian fiction, are looking for. When I want "action", I read a mystery or a western. And I, for one, am glad there's not too much action in a story about a 1st grade classroom - we have enough of that kind of horror in the news.

    What this book does have, in plentiful supply, is love, humor, anticipation, frustration, sadness, anger, hope, and faith in God.