Tolkien’s roads, it seems, go ever, ever on, but with as amiable and knowledgeable a guide as Olsen, the weather remains...

A journey across Middle-earth with an English teacher.

Olsen, (English/Washington Coll.) who both teaches Tolkien courses and hosts a popular website (The Tolkien Professor), reveals his affection for—obsession with?—Tolkien’s texts in numerous ways. He directly praises passages as “brilliantly executed” and “masterful,” but merely by giving this young people’s book the full attention of his scholarly skills, he imparts to it an elevated status. Olsen declares he is more interested in explanation than in literary theory, so he offers a chapter-by-chapter explication of the characters, events, landscapes, traditions, conflicts and songs that fill Tolkien’s enormously popular 1937 novel. (The Peter Jackson two-part film opens in December.) The author also refers continually to the original edition, which Tolkien later revised when he decided to integrate The Hobbit with The Lord of the Rings. Olsen rarely finds anything negative to say (he does observe that one moment is not “completely successful”) and sometimes even twists himself a bit to defend Tolkien. The author traces the conflict between the Baggins and Took sides of Bilbo, emphasizes the lust for treasure that nearly results in all-out war at the end, and observes the changes in Bilbo’s character as he moves from his safe hearth to the fiery furnace of the dragon’s lair. He spends lots of time with the songs, revealing meanings in them that would generally escape most readers, young and old.

Tolkien’s roads, it seems, go ever, ever on, but with as amiable and knowledgeable a guide as Olsen, the weather remains fine and the journey sweet.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-73946-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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