A touching autobiography delving into the tears behind the laughter of America's premier comedienne. Burnett writes her story in the form of a long letter to her three children, in an effort, she says, to help them ""recognize parts of yourselves in me. . .I wrote it for you, but it turned out that I wrote it for me, too."" This is not, by any means, a detailed autobiography. It ends, for instance, at the point in 1959 when, with her broadway success in Once Upon a Mattress, her career was solidly set. It is, rather, a loose series of autobiographical sketches dealing with her down-and-out childhood in Texas and California, the daughter of an alcoholic father and her ""Mama,"" who dreamed endlessly of winning her way to wealth via newspaper and TV contests while she struggled from welfare check to welfare check. Highly visible in Burnett's upbringing was her grandmother, Nanny, who reigned supreme in her pontifications over Mama's moral and practical lapses. Burnett's jottings start out shakily, almost as if she can't quite decide how to get into her life, but they soon become compelling and often downright moving. They tell a classic tale of a poor girl making her own breaks, with a bit of luck thrown in (as when an unnamed mystery man meets her at a party and, impressed, offers her $1,000 to finance her going to New York and, ultimately, stardom). After reading this volume, it's easy to see how Burnett can so easily make the transition from comedy to drama, for she tells here of a childhood marred by tragedies, yet filled with a dramatic sense of love. A must for Burnett fans and an aid for those yet to join the fold. And do stay tuned for more.