Reading Diary: Steve Jobs: Insanely great by Jessie Hartland

It's tempting to go a couple of different ways here.

A book that has "Insanely Great" in the title? What could possibly go wrong?

On the other hand....

A kids book about what a jerk Steve Jobs was. What could possibly go wrong?

Steve Jobs: Insanely Great by Jessie Hartland. An illustrated biography of Steve Jobs aimed at a younger audience which gives an honest, unflinching look at his life, warts and all. Maybe not up to the "insanely great" standard, but engaging and enjoyable with a lot of openings for parents and children to talk about how complicated real people are.

What more could you ask for, really?

Jessie Hartland's book could very easily done a very superficial life in pictures of Jobs, something that would be interesting and cool and above all inoffensive for his intended audience. Probably mostly the parents and friends of 8-10 year olds who might be interested in technology or Apple products or even just a slice of life. Another audience is adults -- Apple and Jobs fans and cultists who will probably read the book on their watch, looking for a brief, quirky but affirmational look at the life of their hero.

Both these audiences would seem to favour a fairly modest accounting of Jobs many flaws as a boss and as a person. The more-than-occasional indifference to family and friends, the perfectionist mercurial obnoxious tightly-wound boss. Easier to focus on his passion and brilliance, his flair for design and laser-focus on simplicity and elegance.

And Hartland is to be congratulated on bringing both of those sides to the table, using his child-like, simple, elegant artwork to bring out the lovable in the obnoxious as well as the obnoxious in the lovable, walking the tightrope of honesty and integrity in storytelling versus an age-appropriate approach.

Because the theme of this book is how even the best and brightest people are complicated and imperfect. Jobs was a genius, but he could be a jerk. Why is that? Are all geniuses jerks? Are all jerks geniuses? Aren't we all imperfect and why shouldn't famous people get to be imperfect like the rest of us? These are great conversations that will arise naturally from reading this book with your local young person.

This is a charming book and provocative book for young people. Buy it for the young people in your life as well as any fans of Apple who might want a quick and quirky read. This book is definitely suitable for libraries with children's collections. Academic libraries that support early childhood education or children literature programs would find an eager audience for this book.

Hartland, Jessie. Steve Jobs: Insanely great. New York: Schwartz & Wade, 240pp. ISBN-13: 978-0307982957

(Review copy provided by publisher.)


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