New York Times garden columnist Raver collects some of her observations on ``noticing things'' and ``the joy of obsession.'' Fortunately, she returns periodically to the subject of gardening; In fact, some of her most engaging pieces are the ones that entertain while they offer practical information to the green- thumb set. Consider, for example, her account of being disabused of a `` `beneficial bugs' fantasy'' by an entomologist who explains that insects lack a sense of gratitude or obligation to their purchaser: After fickle ``eat-and-run'' ladybugs lunch on your aphids, they'll take wing toward their original home, California. Raver's well-developed sense of humor keeps her writing centered, preventing pensive (and even genuinely down) moments from unduly darkening the text and expressions of her love for nature from becoming cloying, as when she reports, ``I found a little cutworm and thought for a split second of the Buddhists' reverence for all living things. Then I squished it.'' Many of these essays implicitly call upon the reader to empathize with and even care about Raver, particularly when she is writing about her family- -describing a moment of understanding shared with her elderly father or wishing she had a daughter so she could pass on what her own mother has ``given me, so freely.'' In this respect, individual pieces are more successful than the book as a whole. The picture we get of the author's life is fragmentary and jumbled; for example, we take for granted the presence of Raver's cat and then stumble over the news of its arrival in the household. It's tough to empathize with a life lived out of sequence. Like a well-tended, personal, and slightly eccentric garden, this collection is stronger on small, individual delights than overall formal design. (15 drawings, not seen)

Pub Date: May 17, 1995

ISBN: 0-679-43483-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1995

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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