A delightful, educative journey through some prickly regions of English grammar.

REBEL WITH A CLAUSE

TALES AND TIPS FROM A ROVING GRAMMARIAN

A grammar expert takes on vexing questions and pet peeves.

Jovin, the author of several books on writing and grammar, describes her experiences traveling across the country answering the public’s questions about language use. In 49 lively chapters, she recounts her conversations on punctuation, conjugation, spelling, pronunciation, and contentious word choices while offering sage and sensible advice on common areas of confusion. She writes about passersby who air their grievances about the misuse of apostrophes, and she offers jaunty but exceptionally clear illustrations of their appropriate deployment. Individual chapters cover some familiar problem areas—affect and effect, lie and lay, whoever and whomever—along with broader reflections on the evolution of verbal conventions in the digital age and the significance of a respect for language itself. The conversations that unfold on her tour are, she rightly observes, “filled with humor and feeling for the complex linguistic glue that binds us together as human beings and distinguishes us from other living creatures.” Jovin’s charm as an explainer of sometimes-esoteric rules and as a defender of common sense and clarity in communication is a major strength of this book. Another is her lighthearted but incisive commentary on people’s emotional investments in grammar. A large part of the book’s comedy comes from her descriptions of how disagreements about proper expression can pit people against one another, poisoning otherwise successful relationships. Many of the chapters describe people venting about others’ grammatical lapses, and Jovin positions herself, convincingly, as not just a linguistic, but an emotional counselor, fostering healthy communication rather than judgement. The invitation she poses in her introduction—“Now, please lie down on a nice couch with this book and let’s have some grammar therapy”—is well worth accepting.

A delightful, educative journey through some prickly regions of English grammar.

Pub Date: July 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-358-27815-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Mariner Books

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A powerful melding of image and text inspired by Instagram yet original in its execution.

A BOOK OF DAYS

Smith returns with a photo-heavy book of days, celebrating births, deaths, and the quotidian, all anchored by her distinctive style.

In 2018, the musician and National Book Award–winning author began posting on Instagram, and the account quickly took off. Inspired by the captioned photo format, this book provides an image for every day of the year and descriptions that are by turns intimate, humorous, and insightful, and each bit of text adds human depth to the image. Smith, who writes and takes pictures every day, is clearly comfortable with the social media platform—which “has served as a way to share old and new discoveries, celebrate birthdays, remember the departed, and salute our youth”—and the material translates well to the page. The book, which is both visually impactful and lyrically moving, uses Instagram as a point of departure, but it goes well beyond to plumb Smith’s extensive archives. The deeply personal collection of photos includes old Polaroid images, recent cellphone snapshots, and much-thumbed film prints, spanning across decades to bring readers from the counterculture movement of the 1960s to the present. Many pages are taken up with the graves and birthdays of writers and artists, many of whom the author knew personally. We also meet her cat, “Cairo, my Abyssinian. A sweet little thing the color of the pyramids, with a loyal and peaceful disposition.” Part calendar, part memoir, and part cultural record, the book serves as a rich exploration of the author’s fascinating mind. “Offered in gratitude, as a place to be heartened, even in the basest of times,” it reminds us that “each day is precious, for we are yet breathing, moved by the way light falls on a high branch, or a morning worktable, or the sculpted headstone of a beloved poet.”

A powerful melding of image and text inspired by Instagram yet original in its execution.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-44854-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2022

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