An entertaining and enlightening book from a brainy, foul-mouthed and very funny tour guide.

A multiethnic cross-country trip with a smart and saucy pedant at the wheel.

In this lively follow-up to her debut, Biting the Wax Tadpole: Confessions of a Language Fanatic (2007), Little tours a variety of cultures to see how well their native languages are holding up against the predominance of English. She starts by visiting a variety of Indian tribes—the Crow in Montana, the Navajo in Arizona, the Makah in Seattle—where a theme quickly takes hold: Languages don’t always die a natural death. Sometimes they’re victims of attempted murder, as people who assimilated into 19th- and early-20th-century American life (often against their will) found their language banished. Little also hunts the byways of New Orleans to sort out the roots of the mixed-race and mixed language known as Creole. In Charleston, S.C., she samples the salty English and African gumbo known as Gullah. She learns the unlearnable Basque language in Nevada and finds differences between Spanish spoken in New Mexico and elsewhere. Throughout, Little effectively employs humor, which takes the edge off her occasional root-and-branch disseminations on etymology. She ranks scenes of natural beauty by the number of times it makes her use the F-word; the view from a Seattle highway turns her “into a character from Glengarry Glen Ross”; a bite of lutefisk in North Dakota “seemed like something was decomposing in my mouth.” In a description you’ll never hear from Al Roker, the author describes the weather in Laredo, Texas, as “hotter than Satan’s sweaty ball sack.”

An entertaining and enlightening book from a brainy, foul-mouthed and very funny tour guide.

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59691-656-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 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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