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From The Asian Reporter, V16, #40 (October 3, 2006), page 15.

How are you smart?

How We Are Smart

By W. Nikola-Lisa

Illustrations by Sean Qualls

Lee & Low Books, 2006

Hardcover, 32 pages, $16.95

By Josephine Bridges

Think about all the people you know. Are some really good at sports? Do others excel in art? Can some play musical instruments well? Are some terrific at solving math problems?" What all of these people have in common, author W. Nikola-Lisa and illustrator Sean Qualls go on to tell us, is that they are smart. "But Ö they are smart in different ways, and in more ways than one." Itís never too early to be introduced to the theory of multiple intelligences, and the youngsters at whom this book is directed may well see their families and friends, and, most important, themselves, as smarter once they have read this book.

According to Dr. Howard Gardner, who developed the theory of multiple intelligences, there are eight ways to be smart. The author of this book calls on the writings of Dr. Thomas Armstrong, who made Dr. Gardnerís ideas accessible to many, to describe these intelligences: body smart, logic smart, music smart, nature smart, people smart, picture smart, self smart, and word smart. Then he introduces readers to twelve notable individuals ó six men and six women ó from a wide variety of backgrounds and excelling in an equally wide variety of fields.

Iíve long been an admirer of architect I.M. Pei, born in China in 1917, who is one of the illustrious individuals portrayed here, but I had never before heard of Patsy Takemoto Mink, a third-generation Japanese American from Maui, Hawaii, who upon her election to the House of Representatives became "the first woman of color in the U.S. Congress. She fought for the rights of minorities, the poor, women, and children, and was re-elected twelve times." What a role model for our youth!

The author has the good sense not to include his own opinions about which of these people are smart in what ways, but invites readers to do this on their own. The best part of a wonderful book is the activities section, which contains the suggestion that readers not only observe people around them and think about how they are smart, but tell them.

How We Are Smart has one flaw, not so much serious as frustrating. The author, a perfectly competent prose stylist, has chosen to write five rhyming stanzas about each of the individuals he describes. These verses arenít well written, and they take up a lot of space that could have been given over to more information about twelve fascinating people.

Sean Quallsís compelling illustrations contain carefully crafted portraits of the individuals who represent so many kinds of intelligence, combined with rough sketches in the background that invite young readers to fill in the blanks with their imaginations.

Thereís a comprehensive list of resources for grownups, and a parting word for youngsters: "Who knows, maybe one day youíll be in a book like this!"


To buy me, visit these retailers:

Powell's Books