Monday, March 26, 2012

Book Review: The O'Reilly Factor for Kids

A Book You Can Buy From Me

Book Title: The O'Reilly Factor for Kids

Author: Bill O'Reilly (with Charles Flowers)

Author's web site:

Publisher: Harper Collins

Date: 2004

Length: 189 pages
ISBN: 0060544252

Quote: "I wish I'd had this book when I was a teenager...Unfortunately, no one had written a realistic book for kids. So I made dumb mistakes."

Is there any book, or could there ever possibly be a book, the reading of which would prevent teenagers from making dumb mistakes? Doubtful. However, Bill O'Reilly does level with his teenaged (and pre-teenaged "tween") fans on the issues that were of greatest concern to him when he was a teenager.

The blurb on the jacket mentions "tak[ing] the tests he's provided." If you're looking for short fun quizzes to score yourself and discuss with your friends, don't bother--that's not the kind of tests this book provides. The format consists of medium-length essays on the things adults usually advise teenagers about--sex, drugs, jobs, wasting money, cheating on tests, bullies, TV--interspersed with one-paragraph "Instant Messages" about topics that inspire less reminiscence, like using the seat belt when driving. There are also several messages from O'Reilly's middle through high school fans.

I think the overriding message of this book, as distinct from other books of advice for teenagers, might be something like "Kids: if you've been told it's weird to watch a serious, even conservative, news show, you're not the only ones who do." Which is a great message for kids who watch serious news shows, or listen to serious news shows on the radio, or read books by news commentators.

What else O'Reilly has to tell kids is how to become the most watched news broadcaster on cable TV. Just say no to sex and drugs; O'Reilly admits he kept his virginity up to age twenty. (Some guys are ashamed of that. Don't be. When I was young enough to date twenty-year-old guys, I gave them lots of plus points for any credible claims to virginity.) Stay in school, go to college, earn good grades, and work around the occasional incompetent teacher if you have to--after all, you should be smarter than s/he is. Get a job as soon as you can and rack up good work references. And if you want to be a newsman, check out O'Reilly's own personal schedule on pages 152-153. Okay, so maybe you don't want to be a newsman...the rest of the advice in this book is good advice for most people who want to succeed in most careers.

Despite O'Reilly's Catholic background, this is not a Catholic book, or even a Christian book: "I have no right to tell you what to believe," although the author gets in a few digs at the Christian-phobics who sometimes comment on his show. It is, let us say, a book informed by the author's Christian background.

Is it a right-wing book? Well, in the sense that the hippie lifestyle of sleeping around and taking drugs used to be considered left-wing, maybe. Here's what a confessed Bill Clinton fan says on Amazon: "I vote my conscience and voted for Clinton twice and for the life of me I cannot see where people get that this book is some type of conservative platform - it's a children's book with what I thought were good overall moral values." Dittos. The O'Reilly Factor for Kids does not tell young readers how to vote--they don't have a vote anyway.

The same commenter thought the reading level was more appropriate for middle school readers than for high school readers. Well, no points for guessing why--a lot of the young viewers who've written in to O'Reilly are in middle school. If you're a high school student looking for a more sophisticated read, give this book to a younger reader (advanced readers in grade four and up, average readers in grade six or seven and up) and read The O'Reilly Factor, a completely different book aimed at adults.

The back cover says, "Kids, consider sharing this book with your parents--they'll understand you better. Parents, definitely share this book with your kids--you'll sleep better." So, obviously this is a book meant for kids to share with parents. More than that, I'd suggest that kids consider sharing the book with friends. Why contend with peer pressure to do all the stupid things this book advises you not to do? You already know that drinking, smoking, driving without a seat belt or a license or a working brake system, etc., are stupid choices. Support your friends in generating peer pressure to make the sane choices. Make it cool to take advice from a TV star.

You can buy it from me online for $5 plus $5 shipping. Or buy the copy I read at the Mountain Treasures store in Gate City, Virginia, for much less. You can also buy it directly from Amazon, but if you buy it from me (1) O'Reilly gets a dollar, and (2) you get to post a free review of your favorite book, store, or other product at this site. (This is the way to post any comment that includes any live links.)