Songwriting adman Backer (as in Backer Spielvogel Bates Worldwide) tells, in some detail, how he did it. What Backer did was spawn the Coca-Cola commercial that evolved into ``I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing.'' His pride in his accomplishment is, unfortunately, unbounded. The author—sort of the Barry Manilow of ``the song-form commercial'' (don't call them ``jingles,'' please)—uses the story of the successful soft- drink campaign as a peg on which to hang a book full of bloated expostulation. With the pride that is emblematic of his trade, Backer offers some big talk about ``big ideas,'' the profane Grail of the knights of Madison Avenue. His theory is that original ideas require nurturing from ``families''—sponsoring uncles, aunts, and godparents—and powerful folk who can give the affirmative nod to new notions. Reasonably, he reminds us to separate ideas from their execution. But it's all inflated and never strays far from the author's singular creative accomplishment. (He simply wanted to sell the world some soda pop with ``I'd like to buy the world a Coke''—a real example of pop culture.) To be sure, it's not uniformly dull. The narrative picks up with a description of the Coke shoot, and a few bits of Ad-land gossip help to relieve the tedium. Curiously, Backer has a tin ear for the English language. He innovates with the odd inverted clichÇ (``far and few between'') or inattention (someone ``is yet'' to perform a task). A false self-helper in which the author helps himself to some congratulation. Persuasive texts in this genre are few and far between, indeed. (Illustrations—not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-8129-1969-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Times/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1993

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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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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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