Susan Eaton, the author of The Children in Room E4: American Education on Trial, writes narrative brilliantly. She starts the book by introducing a Puerto Rican boy, Jeremy Otero, who lives in the inner city of Hartford. Over the course of the book, Eaton follows him and his classmates’ third, fourth and fifth grade trajectories at the racially segregated Simpson-Waverly Elementary School. Every so often, she switches to following the Sheff v. O’Neill case from the 1990’s. Initially, this book is engaging; Eaton’s writing style contains a subtle touch of humor alongside her clear messages. I especially enjoyed the way she carefully crafted the images in Jeremy’s world. The first time Eaton meets Jeremy, she describes him as a “chubby, grinning third grader waddling up the corridor toward us [who was] too wide for little boy clothes [but] too short for bigger sizes” (7). The image of the child Eaton immediately brought to my mind stayed with me for the rest of the book, and made me feel connected to the children on a more personal level. By the end of the book, I really cared about the children in room E4. I wanted them to succeed in their lives, despite the heavily stacked odds against them. My favorite parts of the book were the parts that included the kids and their vivacious teacher, Ms. Lois Luddy, who won Hartford’s Teacher of the Year Award in 2002. She really pushed Jeremy’s class to succeed, battling the expectations set in place for the children entering these very racially segregated schools.
Unfortunately, the place where the book fell short when discussing legal matters. Although I understand the importance of communicating statistics to drive home a point, as a reader, I felt overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information Eaton urged onto me. The sheer volume of numerical statistics was dizzying. Those chapters dragged on and on. It made the work, otherwise a page-turner, downright boring. I was disappointed to see that so much of the substance of...
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