Now an octogenarian, Sheldon writes, “I myself would like to meet Death in the flower garden—falling facedown onto a cushion...



Natty essays from the garden: brassy practicality with pungent opinions handed out like garlic.

The collection shows Sheldon (The Flamboyant Garden, not reviewed, etc.) at her best not-quite-formal style: controlled but fluid prose from the gardening trenches, generous, experienced, capable of a little mischief. The self-contained essays fuse into a kind of journal of information and observations that displays a broad, widely encompassing enthusiasm—which even to Sheldon can be “alarming, though: for what if one should be left with nothing to hate?” A number of pieces concern themselves with hard facts, like the payoff of keeping a log or how to gather seeds and plant from them. The author admits when she’s flummoxed (“Do other people’s primulas stay tidy all summer? If so, how do they do it? Mine become spotty and yellow, quite hideous”) and gives her chapters sporty titles like “Shrubs for the Mixed Border” and “Putting the Garden to Bed.” She writes with a precise touch about elements of gardening that touch her soul, like the atavistic pleasures of a woods garden or why one should take garden snobbery and stick it deep underground along with the bulbs, perhaps paint it, as she does sumac, “with poison ivy killer.” (She also writes about systemic herbicides, so readers averse to such treatment, beware.) Sheldon includes spare paeans to some of her garden favorites—columbines, astilbes, cranesbills, goatsbeards—as well as vest-pocket introductory biographies of Gertrude Jekyll, Jane Loudon, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Alexander Pope, and Horace Walpole. Most of all, she embraces the process, the unfolding, of garden and gardener, the chance additions, the blunders that teach, the successful or disastrous working of ideas.

Now an octogenarian, Sheldon writes, “I myself would like to meet Death in the flower garden—falling facedown onto a cushion of Dianthus gratianopolitanus, if that’s not too much to ask.” No, but not for a while, please.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-8070-8556-1

Page Count: 262

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2002

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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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