Early's mushy, self-conscious essays recounting discussions with his daughters, poems to them, and diary excerpts have the appeal of a stranger's family album. Indeed, Early (Lure and Loathing, 1993) remains a stranger. He hints at trouble in his marriage and admits to having felt ashamed of his children but reveals little else about himself. In a preface he claims that writing about his daughters interested him because it would give him a chance to discuss females without having to confront feminist discourse. Yet in trying to avoid any tinge of the political, Early seems to fail to connect altogether. In these scenes from Early family life, his daughters, Linnet and Rosalind, never develop distinct personalities, and it is often difficult to gauge how old they are in a given episode. In ``A Racial Education, Part Two'' Early explains that as a professor of African-American studies (Washington Univ.) he is immersed in black culture, yet he shies away from popular Afrocentric thinking and culture. This segues into disparaging comments from Linnet about classmates who claim to be Afrocentric yet have little concrete knowledge about Africa, followed by Early's reading an Etheridge Knight poem to his family, and Rosalind insisting that he read from Robert Louis Stevenson instead (``Are you trying to tell us something about being black, Daddy?''). These are all meaningful occurrences, but they do not gel. Early has an authoritative voice that often slips into a pompous, scholarly tone, and many of the conversations with his daughters have an unnatural feeling, as though everyone in the Early household were constantly speechifying. It is difficult to swallow that when Early and Rosalind were in the car together one day and barely avoided an accident, he had the presence of mind immediately afterwards to pronounce, ``You're gonna die one day, Ros. But not today and not by my hand.'' Interesting but rarely illuminating.

Pub Date: June 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-201-62724-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Addison-Wesley

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1994

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?


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

Did you like this book?