Sure to provoke discussion, and deserving of a broad audience.



An intriguing argument, in the absence of much direct historical evidence, that Israel was delivered from its Assyrian enemy by an African savior.

In 701 b.c., a great army of Assyrians in the service of the ruler Sennacherib descended on Israel, Canaan, and Judah on a mission of conquest. Approaching Jerusalem after several victories, this army was, according to the Bible, devastated by an “angel of the Lord” and forced to withdraw. This “angel,” scholars have guessed, was likely some sort of smallpox-like plague; in whatever event, the deliverance of Jerusalem assured the survival of the Hebrew kingdom and of its god, Yahweh—and, by extension, enabled Jerusalem to endure as the center of three great monotheistic religions. Aubin, a reporter for the Montreal Gazette, works his way through a great library of historical texts to support his thesis that the angel was in fact the army of the Kushite pharaoh of Egypt, made up largely of black Africans from what is now the Sudan. Led by the general Taharqa, who would go on to become a pharaoh himself and whom the Greek historian Strabo ranked among the great but underpublicized warriors of the ancient world, this African army seldom figures in modern biblical scholarship—the result, Aubin argues, of a racist campaign over the last two centuries to erase the Kushite contribution to Israel’s survival. That argument is sometimes overstated, though Aubin finds a useful foil in the unapologetically racist though influential scholar Archibald Henry Sayce (1845–1933), who dismissed the possibility that a “Negro dynasty” could have effected the rescue of distant Jerusalem. Even so, Aubin writes about complex matters of history, archaeology, and biblical exegesis with a generally light hand, and his book, though its reliance on learned guesswork may give traditionally minded scholars pause, offers an eminently plausible interpretation of one of history’s great turning points.

Sure to provoke discussion, and deserving of a broad audience.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-58947-275-0

Page Count: 469

Publisher: Soho

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2002

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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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