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YOUR CAPTION HAS BEEN SELECTED

MORE THAN ANYONE COULD POSSIBLY WANT TO KNOW ABOUT THE NEW YORKER CARTOON CAPTION CONTEST

Wood has a great time here, mixing the bizarre, the jocular, and the wise into a clever package.

An appealing book about a surprisingly difficult task: writing a good cartoon caption.

It is fair to say that the New Yorker caption contest is a genuine cultural phenomenon, attracting thousands of entries every week. Wood, who has won the competition an unmatched eight times (and made it to the final round 15 times), is perfectly situated to examine why a good caption works, as well as explain how the contest operates. The contest is so popular that simply managing the entries, as well as the public vote on a selection of finalists, has become a huge logistical task for the magazine’s editors. There is no prize for the winner, other than bragging rights. In this entertaining book, Wood includes 175 of the best cartoons and captions, aiming to distill the essence of the humor. Some of the captions are droll, some are wryly thoughtful, and some are laugh-out-loud hilarious. Wood believes that it is the limitation of a caption, where everything must fit in one short comment, that is the key to its appeal. He provides a long list of criteria, highlighting the importance of identifying the speaker, telling a story, avoiding vulgarity, connecting to the details of the cartoon, and selecting the best from several options. “If your caption is selected as a finalist,” he writes, “launch an aggressive social media campaign to win the popular vote. Don’t rely solely on email.” Throughout, the author is charmingly eccentric and pleasing. Interestingly, numerous comedians regularly enter the contest but do no better than other people. Wood, for his part, is not professionally humorous; he is a lawyer. Now that’s funny. Bob Mankoff, the former cartoon editor at the New Yorker, provides the foreword.

Wood has a great time here, mixing the bizarre, the jocular, and the wise into a clever package.

Pub Date: June 4, 2024

ISBN: 9781250333407

Page Count: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2024

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THE BACKYARD BIRD CHRONICLES

An ebullient nature lover’s paean to birds.

A charming bird journey with the bestselling author.

In his introduction to Tan’s “nature journal,” David Allen Sibley, the acclaimed ornithologist, nails the spirit of this book: a “collection of delightfully quirky, thoughtful, and personal observations of birds in sketches and words.” For years, Tan has looked out on her California backyard “paradise”—oaks, periwinkle vines, birch, Japanese maple, fuchsia shrubs—observing more than 60 species of birds, and she fashions her findings into delightful and approachable journal excerpts, accompanied by her gorgeous color sketches. As the entries—“a record of my life”—move along, the author becomes more adept at identifying and capturing them with words and pencils. Her first entry is September 16, 2017: Shortly after putting up hummingbird feeders, one of the tiny, delicate creatures landed on her hand and fed. “We have a relationship,” she writes. “I am in love.” By August 2018, her backyard “has become a menagerie of fledglings…all learning to fly.” Day by day, she has continued to learn more about the birds, their activities, and how she should relate to them; she also admits mistakes when they occur. In December 2018, she was excited to observe a Townsend’s Warbler—“Omigod! It’s looking at me. Displeased expression.” Battling pesky squirrels, Tan deployed Hot Pepper Suet to keep them away, and she deterred crows by hanging a fake one upside down. The author also declared war on outdoor cats when she learned they kill more than 1 billion birds per year. In May 2019, she notes that she spends $250 per month on beetle larvae. In June 2019, she confesses “spending more hours a day staring at birds than writing. How can I not?” Her last entry, on December 15, 2022, celebrates when an eating bird pauses, “looks and acknowledges I am there.”

An ebullient nature lover’s paean to birds.

Pub Date: April 23, 2024

ISBN: 9780593536131

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2024

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A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

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The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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