Funnyman Pinkwater has written ``about 50'' children's books and illustrated most of them. For the past few years he's been doing short, laid-back spots on NPR. This book, sprung from the radio pieces, ``turns out,'' he says, ``to be a fragmentary autobiography.'' Just don't expect the kind of facts you'd get from Current Biography; Pinkwater has more interest in relating anecdotes, or just observing through his own bemused eyes. And so, in mostly one- to three-page bits suitable for reading in the bathroom, Pinkwater muses on or recollects some odd and ordinary moments from his Chicago childhood and later Zen-like art training there, his ``instructional malnutrition'' as a college art-student, his other spells and travels here and there, and his 12 years in Hoboken, ``my spiritual home for the rest of my life''—a ``quaint'' community preoccupied with crime and politics, ``which sometimes overlap,'' and inhabited by ``da-salt-u-da-eart, with some of the highest-grade eccentrics and loonies mixed in.'' Today he lives in an old farmhouse in upstate New York, where he is getting to know the crows, even though ``the guy who owned this little farm before we did had one of those psychoses in which the idea of being in America and killing everything living in the area are mixed in together.'' The book is all small stuff: An entry from recent years tells of his panic on hearing a slow-talking radio guy announce an upcoming concert of music by ``Daniel...Pink...ham.'' In the end, you might not know what Pinkwater's father actually did for a living...or how he met his wife...or much about his writing. But you might feel fond of this wiggy talent who has at least kept you smiling. And Pinkwater fans can have the fun of recognizing germs of his fiction here and there.

Pub Date: Nov. 21, 1991

ISBN: 0-201-52359-0

Page Count: 175

Publisher: Addison-Wesley

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1991


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

Close Quickview