Charlotte Piwowar's Reviews > KaBOOM!: One Entrepreneur's Quest to Build Community & SAVE PLAY!

KaBOOM! by Darell Hammond
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Mar 20, 2011

really liked it
Read from May 20 to June 04, 2011 — I own a copy

I read this book because I was a volunteer at a Kaboom! playground build in Champaign, IL. I found that experience to be very fun and rewarding, to see the playground go up in the span of just a few hours, so I was intrigued by the book. Overall, I thought it was good...although I do have a few critiques.

First, the good. I think that the information and business model/mission of Kaboom! are really great, and so for that I found the book quite fascinating. It was cool to read about not only the successes, but also the challenges that the author and creator of kaboom faced, showing the realness of starting a nonprofit. More than anything, I love his determination that what Kaboom! does is to focus on helping the community realize their own strength and resources, so that they can continue to transform the worlds they live in. It is so heartwarming to know that there are dedicated people like that out there, and to see his positivity and determination shine through all. Also, Hammond was deeply inspired by his time with City Year, and so considering that I am now serving with the same organization I was intrigued by that aspect.

Now, for the critique. Number one, Hammond isn't the best writer in the world, and so after getting about halfway through, sometimes I felt like I was being fed the same stuff, over and over...so it was a bit dry and difficult towards the end, but not terrible; after all, I still finished the book and give it 4/5 stars. If you are interested in the organization and content, great. If you are looking to be struck speechless by elegant prose...look elsewhere.

Secondly--and this is more of a personal critique against an attitude rather than any sort of attack on the book itself--I found myself not quite in line with what he was saying sometimes. For example, he claims that Kaboom! works to build playgrounds in more "impoverished" communities where there is a lack of playspaces. Thinking about the build I was a part of in Champaign... yes, Champaign has low-income areas and has many of the same problems as even larger urban areas, but that phrase "impoverished" carries a sense of sympathy rather than empathy. I'm not going to go into a whole tirade about this, because people who may read this probably just want a review, but anyways, I think that he could have framed certain things in a better light--although I do admire his desire to help communities realize their own potential instead of just coming in, giving a playground, and leaving. So I think his greater message trumps my argument in the end, but still. And...just as a note, he claims that they like to build playgrounds in places where there aren't safe playspaces...well this one we built was right across from a school, which already had a (seemingly public) playground. Hmm.

Overall, though, if you are looking to be inspired by the power of an individual, and to renew your faith in humanity, read this book.
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