Ana’s Story: A Journey of Hope. By Jenna Bush. HarperTeen. $18.99.
Kids Are Americans Too. By Bill O’Reilly and Charles Flowers. William Morrow. $24.95.
One way to judge the value to your family of a celebrity-written book is by simply imagining it to have been written by someone completely unknown. It’s possible that a celebrity’s name will get you to read about a subject you would not otherwise consider – and that may be a good thing – but when it comes to books that are trying to teach something or help families understand the world better, a celebrity byline is useless if the content is drivel. It often is – although not in these two books. True, the celebrity angle makes the books seem to be more than they are; neither is the last word on anything, and neither really breaks any new ground. But – case in point – in Ana’s Story by Jenna Bush, if the author’s name is what gets families to read the harrowing tale of an abused 17-year-old single mother who is HIV-positive, and then to do something to help the Anas of the world, the celebrity author will have done a great deal of good. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to be the case. Several months after the book’s publication, when all the fanfare about the president’s daughter’s book tours (during which many questions had nothing to do with the book itself) has died down, we are left with a harrowing piece of nonfiction that, unfortunately, adds very little to the debate about HIV, poverty, and the scarcity of health resources in the poorer countries of the world. This is a short book – the pages number 290, but the margins are wide and many pages are half blank or filled with irrelevant photos – but an affecting one. The bickering relatives, uncaring judicial system and strong determination of Ana as a single mother add up to a story of woe and power. Unfortunately, it is more than a twice-told tale. Entrenched ruling elites, official corruption, indifference to the plight of the poor, lack of interest in or understanding of serious diseases, and diversion of resources (including foreign aid) to line the pockets of thuggish leaders are facts of life and death in countries throughout Latin America, Africa and
Bill O’Reilly, on the other hand, has suggestions galore. Kids Are Americans Too is the acerbic journalist’s take on the rights and responsibilities of children in the