...[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.