Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Ambition's Not An Awful Word

Ambition’s Not An Awful Word
Written by Zack Zage, Illustrated by Adam Watkins
(Ivy Court Press, 2012), hb., 32 pp.

This book’s title and look are catchy. Ambition is something our children need a proper sense of but also something which can involve sinful attitudes as well. So I was intrigued by the book.

The book is cute and the illustrations are funny. The text is sort of funny, too, but is actually hard to follow. The look and style of the book suggests it is for young children but references scattered throughout to Julia Child, “New York’s MOMA,” Pollack, Perry Mason and others make it seem like it is aimed at an older audience. We found the text obscure and hard to follow. It wasn't clear to me all the way through how the funny examples fit or advanced the theme, “It’s OK to dream.”

The book seems to encourage ambition from the “you’re the center of the world” perspective which is so common today. When the dreamer is rebuked for exaggerating what he can or will do and for making himself “the brightest and the most”, this critique is dismissed. Instead, “In your own imagination you’re supposed to reign supreme.” I want my children to dream and have aspirations, but I don’t want them to imagine that they are the best at everything. I want them to recognize that they are gifted by God in certain ways and that in using those gifts they can enjoy life, help others, glorify God and advance His kingdom. I did not expect such a full theological vision in this book, but I did hope for more than simply, “It’s good for you to think you can do everything and to imagine yourself as the center of the universe.”

I think what is most useful for inspiring children is not books about themselves but grand stories which introduce them to noble characters and themes greater than themselves, giving them people to admire and stories to live up to. In the end we cannot recommend this book.


At 9:33 AM, Blogger Zack said...


I'm sorry you didn't get it. There are plenty of bad influences out there. Ambition's Not An Awful Word is not one of them. I noticed you have attained the rank of Pastor. Didn't that require a great deal of ambition on your part.? Did you notice that the word ambition was defined in the glossary. Ambition - a sincere desire to achieve, combining confidence, determination, and motivation. How can you say that these are not desirable as well as noble causes. What about compassion? Zack's mother shows understanding and compassion. As far as too difficult to understand, isn't that what responsible parents are for? How do children progress if they are not challenged? Here is a random sentence from another reviewer who represents 99% of all the reviewers of Ambition's Not An Awful word. "It is time to stop negatively telling our children what they cannot do but to encourage them to desire and obtain something they want to do. This book is spot-on in establishing hope, dreams and purpose to the next generation." She gets it. By the way, we are communicating in this manner only because the following individuals: Thomas Edison, Tim Berners-Lee, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and many other very ambitious individuals, were motivated by tremendous ambitions. Thank you.
Sincerely, Zack Zage

At 8:52 PM, Blogger Ray Van Neste said...

Thanks Zack.
I have often at this blog commended books which have a demanding vocabulary. My issue with your book wasn't high vocabulary but a steady flow of references to things which just don't intersect in a meaningful way with the lives of children I know- e.g. Julia Child, Perry Mason.

Then, as I sought to describe, there is a sort of ambition which is valuable and important. However, that is not ambition which is so self-focused. I want my children to dream and to understand what their real gifts are. But I don't want them to see themselves as the "center of the universe."


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