An illuminating work of children’s hardship and self-expression.

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FORCED TO FLEE

VISUAL STORIES BY REFUGEE YOUTH FROM BURMA

Debut author Berg edits a collection of art from young Myanmar refugees.

This book of visual stories includes work by escapees of what Berg terms “the longest-running civil war in the world”: the internal conflicts that have destabilized Myanmar (formerly Burma) ever since it first gained independence from Britain in 1948. With this anthology, she attempts to portray that war using displaced children’s paintings and drawings: “They illustrate that emotions conveyed and evoked by a single narrative image can tell a story of a thousand words, open hearts and build bridges of understanding,” she writes. The images are the result of workshops she conducted with refugee children in which they drew their responses to questions about their lives in Myanmar, their experiences as refugees, and their dreams of the future. Each work is accompanied by a brief passage that offers historical context and some of the artist’s personal experiences. There are accounts of massacres, prison camps, executions, and forced evictions, but also of courageous escapes and assistance from strangers. Many illustrations of schools, doctors, cities, and landscapes represent their artists’ visions of life after the conflict ends. The book is a beautifully laid-out art piece with full-color images on high-quality paper, and Berg keeps the art and the experiences of the children front and center; politics remain peripheral, invoked only to explain situations. Although many of the images may tug at the heartstrings (or cause a sinking sensation in the gut), there’s an optimism in the work that speaks to the indefatigable cheeriness of children. The young artists are idiosyncratic enough that their distinct personalities shine through their pictures and, as Berg claims, they really do say more than the text. In one painting, for example, a group of smiling refugees stands in a boat crossing a body of water at night, with dark figures looming on the shore: “They woried [sic] about soldier,” 11-year-old Siang Tha Dim writes in thought bubbles above their heads. “They woried about, they might fall down!”

An illuminating work of children’s hardship and self-expression.

Pub Date: March 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9908910-0-0

Page Count: 212

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

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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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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