...[a] fascinating and passionate diatribe ... Gopnik is not the first to have argued for a less instrumental and more playful view of childhood, but her book is still a welcome corrective to the results-driven approach to parenting.
Gopnik is especially qualified to support such a claim, given her dual credibility as a scientist and self-proclaimed Jewish bubbe (or 'grandmom'), which gives her writing wisdom along with humor, self-effacement and compassion ... Gopnik shines when she describes the intricate world of children’s play ... That said, I wish Gopnik had given even more space to the kinds of cultural, bureaucratic, legal and demographic forces that make it so difficult for even well-meaning teachers and parents to be gardeners and not carpenters.
Her diagnosis will resonate painfully with anyone trying to raise good humans in a relentlessly outcome-obsessed culture ... The middle chapters of The Gardener and the Carpenter are stuffed with absorbing bite-size summaries of similar research, demonstrating children’s intuitive grasp of concepts like probability, reliability and ontology. It’s in teasing out the implications of all this evidence where things get both fuzzy and frustrating ... In the end, Gopnik’s woodworker starts to look more like a straw man.
Gopnik writes with an approachable style and straightforward language, dipping frequently into personal stories ... The book doesn’t delve much into sociology research that might shed light on how parenting affects economic prosperity or other outcomes.
The Gardener and the Carpenter should be required reading for anyone who is, or is thinking of becoming, a parent ... Gopnik’s science-based assertion is a welcome corrective to the prevailing culture of coaching and tutoring children — often at great expense — to avoid failure.
...the major problem with the comparison is that it’s a straw man, or two straw men. Very few parents are either gardeners or carpenters of children...Most parents lie between those two extremes, including, it seems to me, Gopnik herself ... Fortunately, for most of her book, Gopnik pretty much drops the metaphor, and also says little about how individual parents should raise individual children...when she gets away from gardeners and carpenters, things go much better, despite the impossible breadth of her focus.