By Paul Tough
304 pages; Houghton Mifflin
Geoffrey Canada believes in "contamination": the idea that if enough kids want to succeed in school and in life, if enough parents buttress their efforts from day one, they will infect an entire community. His Harlem Children's Zone, a far-reaching antipoverty initiative, runs a "conveyor belt" of linked educational and social programs, including an innovative charter school called the Promise Academy. Canada's goal is to counter the downward pull of the streets—not by mimicking educationally opportunistic white middle-class culture but by "poaching an idea or two...like adapting a recipe from a foreign cuisine" and blending it with the community's own values and beliefs. Paul Tough's Whatever It Takes (Houghton Mifflin) brings you inside the Promise Academy and into the mind of a visionary who has known failure (his school continues to struggle), yet has the nerve to keep the future squarely in view.