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Publisher's Summary

Kristine Barnett’s son Jacob has an IQ higher than Einstein’s, a photographic memory, and he taught himself calculus in two weeks. At 9 he started working on an original theory in astrophysics that experts believe may someday put him in line for a Nobel Prize, and at age 12 he became a paid researcher in quantum physics. But the story of Kristine’s journey with Jake is all the more remarkable because his extraordinary mind was almost lost to autism. At age 2, when Jake was diagnosed, Kristine was told he might never be able to tie his own shoes.

The Spark is a remarkable memoir of mother and son. Surrounded by "experts" at home and in special ed who tried to focus on Jake’s most basic skills and curtail his distracting interests - moving shadows on the wall, stars, plaid patterns on sofa fabric - Jake made no progress, withdrew more and more into his own world, and eventually stopped talking completely. Kristine knew in her heart that she had to make a change. Against the advice of her husband, Michael, and the developmental specialists, Kristine followed her instincts, pulled Jake out of special ed, and began preparing him for mainstream kindergarten on her own.

Relying on the insights she developed at the daycare center she runs out of the garage in her home, Kristine resolved to follow Jacob’s "spark" - his passionate interests. Why concentrate on what he couldn’t do? Why not focus on what he could? This basic philosophy, along with her belief in the power of ordinary childhood experiences (softball, picnics, s’mores around the campfire) and the importance of play, helped Kristine overcome huge odds.

The Barnetts were not wealthy people, and in addition to financial hardship, Kristine herself faced serious health issues. But through hard work and determination on behalf of Jake and his two younger brothers, as well as an undying faith in their community, friends, and family, Kristine and Michael prevailed. The results were beyond anything anyone could have imagined.

Dramatic, inspiring, and transformative, The Spark is about the power of love and courage in the face of overwhelming obstacles, and the dazzling possibilities that can occur when we learn how to tap the true potential that lies within every child, and in all of us.

©2013 Kristine Barnett (P)2013 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"The Spark is about the transformative power of unconditional love. If you have a child who’s ‘different’ - and who doesn’t? - you won’t be able to put it down." (Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind and Grand Pursuit)
"The Spark describes in glowing terms the profound intensity with which a mother can love her child." (Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon and Far from the Tree)
"Every parent and teacher should read this fabulous book!" (Temple Grandin, author of Thinking in Pictures and co-author of The Autistic Brain)

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  • Story

Is It Okay to Like a Story, but Hate the Writing?

All the reviews I read elsewhere barred me out: masses of readers LOVED this story and could find no fault in it. They raved about the wisdom and enthusiasm and wonders of a mother who "discovered" that her autistic child was, in fact, a genius and helped him attain great feats. Quite a few HATED this story: they thought it was a lie, or an exercise in boasting and appeal for fame. I disagreed with all.

My reading of the book fluctuated between astonishment, excitement, doubt, boredom, and a wish that the amazing mother would have found a capable ghost writer. I personally concluded that the story is largely accurate, and that the accomplishments and admiral insights of a dedicated mother and child motivator are mostly legitimate. In reaction to the writing itself, I felt that her plethora of unwarranted adverbs stretch otherwise interesting events into the frayed fragility of an overstretched elastic, and that her repeated description of tragic hardships is delivered with mind-numbing heaviness. Crowning this tone is the narrator's monotonous, martyr-like voice, and the author's inability to bring important characters--such as Jake--to life. in other words, we readers are allowed to "see" nothing occur, but only be told, and told, and told a long series of events. I wanted this book to end long before it did, though I waded on in honor of the truths available.

There is a great deal of intellectual insight to be discussed--by those with merit--concerning the overall message of the author's book and the danger and hope available in examining the wisdom in some of the author's decisions as applied to autistic persons worldwide.

There were many events that had potential brilliance in their telling. I wish I could have found more of them.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Remarkable book

Each parent should get a copy of this book when leaving the maternity ward. A testament of how much the parenting matters. Must read!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Wonderful inspiring story for anyone

Would you consider the audio edition of The Spark: A Mother's Story of Nurturing Genius to be better than the print version?

This book is so inspiring, Jake's mother, the voice of the book, is so kind it just makes you want to do more & see others in a new light. So happy I read it. The narrator is great, the story is well written & everything else about the book is just wonderful. I recommend it very much.

What did you like best about this story?

relatable yet still interesting

Which scene was your favorite?

The mother making such a connection with her son & listening to what he needed by dancing with the fire flies.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Story
  • sharon
  • san diego, california, United States
  • 10-17-13

What an Inspiring Story

Well written true story of a Genius .The narration is perfect. We used this book for out Book Club. Every body loved it .A Winner

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Dr
  • Vancouver, BC, Canada
  • 08-05-13

Interesting but Very Self-Serving

What did you like best about The Spark: A Mother's Story of Nurturing Genius? What did you like least?

The Spark was an interesting revelation of what the mind of an autistic child is capable of, and the need to reach them at their own level. I had several problems with it, mostly that I became very fed up with this woman's apparently bottomless capacity for self-congratulation. The book also risks giving parents of autistic children the impression that if they only try harder, their child can become a prodigy too. I did not finish the book, as after a while it provided no new information, just endless self-promotion.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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A must read for every parent

So much hardship, so many rewards. If you are a parent or expect to become one some day - read it.

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Fascinating

My husband & I listened with interest to this heartwarming story. We regaled our friends with the stories in the book. A good read or listen.

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Amazing story

I enjoyed every moment of this book. Having an autistic child in our family, I try to educate myself as much as possible. Although I could relate to parts of this book, this child seems pretty high functioning compared to others I have experienced. Bravo for the Mother encouraging his potential. That was probably the most meaningful for me. That, and the Mother's strength and not giving up!

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Great book about Jake and about raising all kids!

Where does The Spark: A Mother's Story of Nurturing Genius rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I've listened to many audiobooks. The Spark is in the top 20.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Spark: A Mother's Story of Nurturing Genius?

Memorable moment was when the Mom ventured out, directly and casually, to learn her son's world.

Have you listened to any of Kathe Mazur’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

no i have not. I enjoyed her narrative.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

they are special

Any additional comments?

I substitute at a daycare; and there is one child who is special who i take much interest in. He, Michael, can now speak the name of each kid and teacher. I am curious of his interests. For now, MIcheal, I have observed, likes to organize things. Indeed, he is probably running circles and patents around me while I kindly watch him.<br/>:)

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A very insightful book.

This book not only help me understand Jacob Barnett's superb intellect, but also help me understand my own autism. It is lovely to see a parent who cares more for who her child is then what her child is labeled at an early age.