A memoir of a self-educated teacher and his inspiring work in Alaska.
Heitman’s curiously titled debut tells the story of his life, from his struggles as a child with dyslexia to his work as an educator in Alaska. Nicknamed “Whip,” Heitman grew up believing his learning disabilities would prevent him from getting anywhere in life; he acted accordingly, getting into trouble from a young age. After a stint in the U.S. Navy, however, he realized that college was for him, and he worked hard to get through it and beyond. He loved education so much that he decided he wanted to be a teacher, first in California, then in Alaska, where he and his wife, Barbara, moved after learning from another couple about plentiful opportunities for new teachers there. They began by working in a rural village, then moved on to another, even more rural village. These passages focus mainly on life in Alaska: the effect of freezing cold temperatures on regular life, the trouble with flying small aircraft, the culture that inspired the children he worked with, etc. For anyone unfamiliar with Alaska or similar regions, this part of the book is a stunning look at how climate affects every aspect of life and how a person has to adapt to live in it. After several years, the couple moved to Fairbanks, a more metropolitan, livable area, where Heitman began working with children with handicaps and learning disabilities. Here, though there are several interesting looks at the beautiful scenery, the focus shifts away from geography and on to Heitman’s work as a teacher. He was clearly an innovative, empathetic educator, and the methods described here would be useful for anyone in the field. As a memoir, the book suffers from its strictly chronological telling: The story unfolds just as life does, paving over some of the more imaginative narrative opportunities. The memoir might have worked better as a series of essays, since an assortment of interesting themes are at play. Even so, the stories about Alaska and Heitman’s work are fascinating and worth reading, and they are straightforwardly told with humor and candor that help make this memoir a joy to read.

An inspiring, informative life story; recommended especially for teachers and those who want to venture north.

Pub Date: June 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-1496174987

Page Count: 394

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2014

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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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