This well-meant collection offers few realistic solutions.


These illustrated short stories concern ethical dilemmas, fears, and hard choices.

Most of these eight tales are apparently set in the present day, and many of the protagonists are children. In “Tip Top Finds Hope,” the title character, about age 12, is “slow at learning.” He’s lonely and sad, spending many hours sitting on the stoop outside, where kids torment him. His mother just tells him to “speak up for yourself.” He prays for someone to play with. One day, a man appears and gathers the neighborhood kids, reminding them of the golden rule. After that, Tip Top has hope and strength, and the local boys ask him to play. Other stories teach similar morals, as in “Victor Learns a Lesson” (about not saying mean things behind others’ backs) and “The Onion” (don’t shoplift). Some tales also focus on moral choices but feature adults, like “Jennifer’s Luck,” about a 60-year-old woman with unattractive features, such as (puzzlingly) “eyes shaped like peanuts.” Children mock her; adults pity her. An angel, whose fate is tied to Jennifer’s, offers her a choice: She can be young again and ugly or pretty and old. She chooses youth at first, then beauty, but despite the advantages of each (Jennifer loves it when construction workers whistle at her), she decides to accept herself as she originally was. When a little boy starts in on her looks, she sneers at him: “Are you sure you have a face to be proud of?” The boy’s friend takes her side, and Jennifer feels a great inner peace. The final work, “The Stone King,” is set in a mythical kingdom where its rich and tyrannical ruler learns the error of his ways through love and forgiveness. These clear, well-intentioned stories deliver some intriguing situations and diverse characters. But as is in common with many writers of morality tales, Frazier (Decisions, 2009, etc.) presents solutions that tend to be unconvincingly simplistic. For example, it usually takes more than one talk to transform a neighborhood of bullies. And getting over bad dreams will surely require more than the one encouraging speech and special talisman featured in “Nightmares.” Meanwhile, “The End of an Era,” in which a boy’s father has forced him to arm-wrestle since the age of 6, seems to glorify aggression. The parent’s treatment makes the boy strong enough, at 14, to challenge and win a bloody victory from the school bullies taking his money. The next day, “word had gotten out that I was crazy,” and his cash was safe. Is this the golden rule? In addition, the author’s dialogue is sometimes stilted, and she overuses ellipses, as in this example from “Victor Learns a Lesson”: “ ‘I don’t really like Lorrance…with his fat self.’ I think he has an odor.” The rather flat, uncredited illustrations often render human figures clumsily, as when an ice cream stick thrown at Tip Top appears to be jutting from his head like an off-center unicorn’s horn. A few pictures have more energy, and the images do show the cast’s varied skin tones.

This well-meant collection offers few realistic solutions.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64398-052-2

Page Count: 88

Publisher: LitFire Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2019

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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