At once horrifying in its details and beautiful in its simple, elegant prose, this Holocaust survivor's narrative is a small masterpiece. Wilkomirski's memoir is the result of his efforts to recover, with the help of a psychiatrist, hitherto repressed memories of a childhood spent in concentration camps. The book begins with his earliest memories of family life in Poland, when he was a toddler. As the title suggests, the recollections he has managed to salvage truly are fragments, ranging from the vague (how many brothers did Binjamin have?) to the gruesomely specific (the brutal murder of Wilkomirski's father in his tiny son's presence). The very young boy (he is three, perhaps four years old) is led away by a woman who promises to take him to a place with the lilting name of Majdanek. It was, of course, a a concentration camp. There, with the aid of benevolent strangers, he learns how to endure, albeit at the cost of a shattered soul. At a Polish orphanage after the war, Wilkomirski, his family gone, is again led away by a woman—one who promises him a better life in beautiful Switzerland. Meanwhile, young Binjamin still partially yearns for the familiar world of the camps, the only world he knows. Wilkomirski's narrative style blends the child's viewpoint with the mature understanding of the adult, unsentimentally recreating situations with arresting poignancy. Thrust into the cozy, comfortable Swiss way of life, the author is haunted by fears of betrayal. Has he betrayed his mother by calling another woman ``mother''? Has he betrayed those who perished by living among the enemy, those ``who live in whole houses and who don't wear striped shirts''? Considering the high literary quality of this book, its admirers will no doubt lock horns with critics of the ``recovered memory syndrome.'' Wilkomirski's voice is brave and lyrical, and his memoir is a piercing window onto the past.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 1996

ISBN: 0-8052-4139-6

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Schocken

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1996

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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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