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The Spark: A Mother's Story of Nurturing Genius
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The Spark: A Mother's Story of Nurturing Genius

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  6,935 ratings  ·  1,085 reviews
Kristine Barnett’s son Jacob has an IQ higher than Einstein’s, a photographic memory, and he taught himself calculus in two weeks. At nine 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 twelve he became a paid researcher in quantum physics. But the story of Kristine’s journey with Jake ...more
Hardcover, 250 pages
Published April 9th 2013 by Random House
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Maridimi Nothing strange about it: she did have a difficult birth, but once it was over there was no reason for the doctors to keep her there, since both mothe…moreNothing strange about it: she did have a difficult birth, but once it was over there was no reason for the doctors to keep her there, since both mother and son were healthy. As you read more about her background, you will understand that Jacob's mother is an energetic and hard-working person, so it comes as no surprise that she would stop on her way home to sign papers... She's used to managing on her own, having been raised to be autonomous from an early age. Not all couples are the same - some parents take it slower, some not- but as long as her husband is on the same boat, the timing to sign papers is their own decision and planning. Anyway, you really need to reach the later chapters, as your question is tackled. It's a REALLY worthy book! :)(less)

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Sonia Green
Sep 10, 2013 rated it it was ok
I finished this book last week and had to put it aside to give it some thought. I wanted to make sure that I was reviewing the BOOK and not the story behind it.

The story of Jake is impressive. He is a brilliant young man. His parents went through a lot in life and suffered more than people should, and it sounds like they kept up a good attitude through all of it. All of that is good.

The book, however, is disappointing on many fronts. The writing isn't great, but I'm willing to forgive some of th
Lori L (She Treads Softly)
The Spark: A Mother's Story of Nurturing Genius by Kristine Barnett is about how Kristine nurtured, supported, and encouraged her autistic son to be all he is capable of being. Her son, Jake, just happens to be a prodigy in math and science. Jake "began taking college-level courses in math, astronomy, and physics at age eight and was accepted to university at nine. Not long after, he began work on an original theory in the field of relativity."

"...Jake’s improbable mind is all the more remarkabl
Oct 13, 2013 rated it it was ok
This was the first book I read after my son was diagnosed with autism in April this year. The book made my heart swell and gave me so much hope he would turn out like this young man. I have a voracious appetite for books and began reading everything I could consume on autism (looking for a cure that doesn't exist). Within weeks, I realized this story was a rare scenario and likely a misdiagnosis. Why I didn't give this book a higher review was because after the author and her son gained national ...more
Daniel Field
Nov 21, 2013 rated it it was ok
This book just annoyed me. Maybe it's because I've worked with many different students with autism and other special needs, or because I found the writing style to be annoying - simultaneously understated and over-exaggerated. Her story is nice to hear, but I got the feeling at times that she felt that she was the first person to realize that if you look at what a child can do instead of what he/she can't, you can see potential. And she most definitely didn't come up with the idea to use PECS wi ...more
Well. The author is not a career author or writer, she was a mom with an interesting story to tell, so I'll give her that. That being said though, the writing does grate on me. This book is a memoir so obviously it is told first person. I think if done right it can be fascinating to live out others' experiences and thoughts. She had a very bland writing style and told events that seemed very interesting in a very one note way. "This happened. I felt _______. I did this." For example, she pretty ...more
Jeri Vick
Jun 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
Interesting story about a truly phenomenal young man. The author's persistently naive take on her son's extraordinary abilities, however, came off as a misguided (and frequently irritating) attempt at modesty.
Kevin Farrell
Aug 29, 2013 rated it liked it
Don't let the 3 star rating discourage you from reading this one. I will explain the rating below. This book is an amazing story about how a mother of an autistic boy fought the advice of medical experts and triumphed. She was told her son would probably never read. She saw more in him than the experts could see and she sought to bring out the best in him. It worked. She also shared her "method" with other families with autistic children with very good results. Her son turned out to be an amazin ...more
Apr 24, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: gave-up-on
When I started this book I really liked it. However halfway through I got so tired of hearing her give herself pats on the back I couldn't believe anything else she wrote. One chapter she wrote about how multiple children came to her and because they had been problems for their parents, within minutes she could see with their spark and changed their lives forever.

I'm sure she was an incredible woman when it came to what she was doing, but I find it hard to believe that only after 10 minutes wit
Kath McStay
Mar 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
When I received an an advance copy of The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius, I expected it to be a read like other similar books of parents and children who have found a way to conquer the limitations that autism sometimes places on children who have received the diagnosis. I have read many of these books, and all of them have been inspiring, interesting and have been passed on to others who might have an interest in the topic.

This book is more. If it were in my power to put it into
Feb 04, 2014 rated it did not like it
Like many others, I have had this book recommended to me frequently since my youngest child was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. I wish, honestly, that I had NOT read it. It pushes the "ASD are all hidden geniuses" stereotype, and furthermore, suggests that the boy's achievements are solely due to his mother "recognizing" his abilities.

The author/mother disregards and demeans her husband, trivializes the health concerns of her second son, and outright ignores her youngest, all to "nu
Feb 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
This book turned out to be so much more than I thought it would be ... not just about an autistic child prodigy, but about life and loss, struggle and triumph. This book takes following a 'mother's gut' to a whole new level. I will definitely look at my children in a different light, and in the future I plan to find ways to guide them that may not necessarily be 'mainstream.' With America's education system in dire straits, 'mainstream' is exactly what we don't need. I just hope I can find the r ...more
Jul 20, 2013 rated it it was ok
Very turned off by the overly dramatic beginning. Once I muddled through that, I just got s false sense of importance. I wish they would have detailed the extraordinary child rather than the mother.
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club-pick
First Read: The Good Stuff - first of all, I'm not a mother, and have not been blessed with that most wonderful of all gifts. Wonderfully honest and truly inspiring.

Shows the power of a mother's faith and love for her son. I wanted to hug this women after reading all of the challenges she faced and how she kept going through it all. Strong message of hope and thinking outside of the box when dealing with special needs children. Really made me think it was refreshing to read a hopeful story about
Feb 20, 2014 rated it it was ok
I would like to give caution before reading this book. The story of the son, Jacob, is compelling and unique. The problem is that story focuses more on the mother. As a parent of a child with autism I was hoping to see a real side of this family that I could relate to. Yet, The mother tells the story with an ere of self righteousness that it turned me off completely. She is so determined to paint the perfect picture of her life that she comes off as artificial. I admit that she did a lot for her ...more
Megan Baxter
Feb 23, 2015 rated it liked it
I really expected to hate this book. Or at least, to be fairly unmoved by it. The first few chapters did nothing to disabuse me of that notion, as they felt like too rounded a tale. All the edges seemed to have been filed off, making a story that was palatable for what people wanted to hear about autism, or about life with a child with a disability, or just, quite frankly, feel-good, glad-it's-not-me pablum.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy a
Sonia Nasmith
Jul 09, 2013 rated it it was ok
Some parts of the story were touching and Jacob is certainly a prodigy. Learning about him was the most interesting part of this book. My main problem with this book was that it felt like Mrs. Barnett was giving herself a real pat on the back. I felt that much of the book rang of a false sense of humbleness. I grew tired of hearing her list off every good deed she'd ever done. At times, the book read like a job interview. Personally I prefer the no holds barred approach of Jenny Lawson. Why? She ...more
I loved this book. It was not perfectly written and sometimes it went off on a tangent to places I was not sure I wanted to go, but I love the message that no-one is a lost cause ... in fact it can be the extreme opposite for those who seem the most unlikely. It has casued me to look at my autsitic son in a different way and think of noew ways of helping him. I wish I had the author's energy and support.
May 10, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: homeschool-books
I have a thing for works about gifted kids. Searching for Bobby Fischer, Little Man Tate, that Oliver Twist retelling about the kid who's a musical genius and it turned out that Felicity is his mom--watching precocious little kids is like watching the extra-smart chick who's the first one of the clutch to figure out that potato bugs are for eating; you're all like, "Look at you go!" AND "Awww, how cute!" all at the same time.

This book strikes me the same way. I hit up Youtube after I finished re
Apr 26, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
A book about autism and genius and I am giving it 2 stars? Let me explain. What the book does well is explain what it feels like to be a parent that has an autism diagnosis. It also explains the feelings of being overwhelmed by having a gifted child. For my Christian friends, there is a strong current of service to others and giving of yourself that makes me want to add another star. The takeaway here is the book does feelings well.

The list of what bothered is longer so buckle up. The writing n
Ira Therebel
Jake Barnett is certainly an interesting individual. I was very interested when I read about the 12 year old who has a higher IQ than Einstein. And in this book written buy his mother we get to read about his development and how he got where he is now. He was also diagnosed with autism when he was a small child and the doctors were even saying he may never be able to speak. In this book Kristine Barnett talks how this affected her family, how they were coping with his diagnosis and how Jake went ...more
Jun 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
I was a goodreads First Reads Winner of this book.The Spark:A Mother's Story of Nurturing Genius.Was A wonderful read.Kristine Barnett wrote this about her son Jake. Her son was diagnosed with Autism at two years old. It was not much longer that they noticed that Jake had a very high aptitude in Science and Math.After tests over the years Jake was shown to be a genius. his aptitude in Astronomy, math, science were proved to be "off the charts" at three he was attending seminars at the college on ...more
Diane Yannick
Jun 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
4.5 to be exact. I was totally absorbed by Jake's story. It made me wonder how many autistic savants have been crushed by our collective need to "fix" them. I'm wondering how that preschool teacher, who recommended that the parents take away his alphabet cards because he'll probably never read, feels.. I hope she got an advanced reader copy hand delivered by the author.

It's easy to take offense to this book. If you're a teacher (as I was) it's easy to believe that the parents interacted inappro
Jennifer Rayment
Apr 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The Good Stuff

Wonderfully honest and truly inspiring
Shows the power of a mothers faith and love for her son
I wanted to hug this women after reading all of the challenges she faced and how she kept going through it all
Strong message of hope and thinking outside of the box when dealing with special needs children
Really made me think about how I can help my son more. As many of you know my son has Spina Bifida and his biggest challenge being the ADHD that is so prevalent with children with thi
When Kristine and Michael’s beloved son Jacob, who was a bright, normal baby, began to regress, losing the abilities he’d gained in his very short life, they knew there was something very wrong. But they didn’t expect the diagnosis of autism that Jacob received at age 3. So began the biggest struggle of their lives. When they were told to adjust their expectations on Jacob’s abilities for his future, with him being lucky to be able to tie his own shoelaces at sixteen, Kristine, after much soul s ...more
Apr 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I rarely give a book 5 stars, but I feel strongly about this one because of the truly incredible story told by the equally incredible (and humble!) author. I was struck with Barnett's candid and down-to-earth style of writing that allows her readers to see her son how she sees him - as an ordinary kid with some challenges, while catching and sharing increasingly frequent glimpses of his seemingly limitless brilliance.

After I finished the book I realized one of my favorite things about it was ho
Eustacia Tan
Mar 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
To be honest, I requested this book because my little cousin is autistic, and more recently, my brother has been diagnosed with autism too. I didn't expect this book to be so engaging, and more than that, encouraging. (And I googled him, this story is true)

The Spark follows Kristine's journey to stop her son Jake's autism from taking him away. And her method is unconventional - stop therapy and let him do what he likes. This not only let him come out of his shell, but helped him develop academic
Dec 05, 2012 rated it liked it
*****I won this book on goodreads as a "first reads" book, so here is my honest review*****

The Spark : A Mother's Story of Nuturing Genius by Kristine Barnett is a inspiring and compelling story about a mother raising her autistic son.

Jake was diagnosed at age 2, and his prognosis was poor. non-verbal Jake was basically not ever going to read or write or even tie his shoes.

Kristine and her husband Mike did everything in their power to regain the son they felt autism had stolen from them. Jake'
Apr 21, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: own, sold
I liked the beginning and the end of the book but the vast majority seemed more about the mother's accomplishments than those of her son's. Some of her story made no sense to me, especially the bit about buying a new house when they couldn't afford to buy a decent place for their centre for autistic kids while still holding a mortgage on the old house that flooded and needed extensive repairs. It was all very strange. And the part about growing up poor even though her grandfather, who she said t ...more
Mar 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this amazing story of a mother pulling out all of the stops to create a nurturing environment for not only her autistic son but for other special needs children in her community. Kristine Barnett seems to me to be a truly gifted woman. Her love of children and her ability to see into their hearts and minds was inspiring to me. As a stay-at-home-mom who sometimes has to struggle for energy and inspiration to keep feeding the hungry minds of my two sons, it is nice to read about a ...more
Apr 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
My mom received this book through a FirstReads giveaway and passed it on to me when she was done. It was so engaging and easy-to-read that I finished it in in one afternoon/evening. First off, the sheer amount of challenges this family faces is mind-boggling. Autism diagnosis for one child, life-threatening childhood disease for another child, author herself diagnosed with a chronic autoimmune disease, financial hardships, deaths of important people in their lives...I just marveled at the streng ...more
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Kristine Barnett lives in Indiana with her husband, Michael, and their three sons. In 1996 she founded Acorn Hill Academy, a daycare serving local families. She and Michael currently run a charitable community center for autistic and special-needs children and their families called Jacob’s Place.

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