From the author of the widely praised Raising America--a compelling exploration of child genius told through the gripping stories of fifteen exceptionally gifted boys and girls, from a math wonder a century ago to young jazz and classical piano virtuosos today. A thought-provoking book for a time when parents anxiously aspire to raise "super children" and experts worry the nation is wasting the brilliant young minds it needs.

Ann Hulbert examines the lives of children whose rare accomplishments have raised hopes about untapped human potential and questions about how best to nurture it. She probes the changing role of parents and teachers, as well as of psychologists and a curious press. Above all, she delves into the feelings of the prodigies themselves, who push back against adults more as the decades proceed. Among the children are the math genius Norbert Wiener, founder of cybernetics, a Harvard graduate student at age fifteen; two girls, a poet and a novelist, whose published work stirred debate in the 1920s; the movie superstar Shirley Temple and the African American pianist and composer Philippa Schuyler; the chess champion Bobby Fischer; computer pioneers and autistic "prodigious savants"; and musical prodigies, present and past. Off the Charts also tells the surprising inside stories of Lewis Terman's prewar study of high-IQ children and of the postwar talent search begun at Johns Hopkins, and discovers what Tiger Mom Amy Chua really has to tell us. But in these moving stories, it is the children who deliver the most important messages.
Praise for Off the Charts

"Engaging and insightful . . . Ms. Hulbert approaches her dozen or so subjects not as a social scientist but as biographer and essayist, where her skills are superlative." —John Donvan, The Wall Street Journal

“Hulbert’s book is smart—as all her books have been . . . Rather than ordinary kids with ordinary parents, these are the outliers. . . . What can we learn, in a society dedicated to high-achieving children, from children who seem ‘naturally’ off the charts in their achievements? . . . [Hulbert] does the good work, throughout, of resisting morals or too neat generalizations.” —Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker
 
“Part ode to young genius, part indictment of helicopter parenting, Hulbert’s crisply written account of überachieving kids probes our own complicated obsessions with talent and the need to stand out.” O, The Oprah Magazine

“Compelling . . . Wide-ranging . . . The major theme is childhood brilliance, of course, but equally compelling are the minor ones: alienation, wonder, preternatural focus and discipline, misunderstandings, rebellions, often-tragic adulthoods, and inevitably, the minefield of parenting. . . . Child prodigies have always been fascinating [and] today their lives resonate with special force.” —Marianne Szegedy-Maszak, The Washington Post

“A fascinating if at times disturbing chronicle of how 15 prodigies came to the world’s attention—and at what cost. Hulbert disabuses readers of the romantic notion that prodigies are born and not made, introducing us to the cast of supporting characters that push the child’s star . . . [She] makes clear, in this nuanced and meticulous book, that when it comes to the prodigy’s gift, the peril is indivisible from the glory” —Nancy Rommelmann, Newsday
 
“The richness of the book, and the pleasure of it, is in the human stories. . . . Hulbert has chosen her wunderkinds carefully, recognizing them not only for their individual brilliance but also as pint-sized portraits of their eras.” —Rachel Sugar, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“In Off the Charts Hulbert attempts to capture the complicated lives of child prodigies without descending into voyeurism or caricature. She has tried to ‘listen hard for the prodigies’ side of the story,’ to her great credit.” —Amanda Ripley, The New York Times Book Review

“A profound, sensitive look at what it takes to make a child prodigy, and the unexpected ways that brilliance can play out in the long run.” The Saturday Evening Post
 
"In her new book, Off the Charts, Ann Hulbert shares the intriguing but cautionary tales of 15 exceptionally gifted children." —Priscilla Gilman, The Boston Globe
 
"Fascinating . . . " People Magazine
 
"A sophisticated, well-researched, and thought-provoking book . . . [Hulbert] shows the prodigies' own perspective of their experience, revealing the pressure that accompanies being labeled exceptional at an early age." —Charlie Gofen, The National Book Review

“Intriguing . . . Hulbert's book takes an unusual path to the roots of parental influence and its core conflicts . . . Some of the characters are well-known, although presented here in a fresh context . . . Closer to the present, we encounter some of the youthful minds that sparked the technological revolution in Silicon Valley, as well as 'tiger mothers' like Amy Chua and their complicated relationships with their talented children. There are surprises in almost every one of these case studies.” —Gary Drevitch, Psychology Today

“In this beautifully written, thoroughly reported look at young ‘geniuses,’ Hulbert poses fascinating questions about the roles of both genetics and pushy parents.” —Karen Springen, Booklist (starred review)
 
“[Combines] lively biograph­ical sketches with serious analysis.” —Keith Herrell, BookPage
 
“Sympathetic, sharply drawn . . . [Hulbert] vividly portrays the positive and negative impacts of being a child prodigy.” —Kirkus Reviews

“In this beautifully crafted book, Ann Hulbert exposes the unique profile of each prodigy she highlights and the often shocking unpredictability of their development. She digs deep into the cultural signals that shape our attitudes towards these anomalous children.” —Ellen Winner, author of Gifted Children

Off the Charts is impeccably researched, gracefully written, and wide in its scope of modern prodigies, ranging from 1920s preadolescent poets to teenage computer programmers and covering both boldface names like Shirley Temple and Bobby Fischer and the all but forgotten. It is a rarity among studies of exceptional children in favoring measured analysis over sensationalism, biographically narrating not only the numerous stories of burnout, but of those whose flames continued to burn brightly past childhood.” Teddy Wayne, author of Loner