A slow poke through Montana by Conrad (former editor of Horizons), a guy who likes a side dish of bile to accompany his travels. Conrad hits the road in the Big Sky State to take in the scenery and dig up a little family history. The family side of the story comes and goes—both grandfathers moved to the territory back in the late 1800s—with Conrad trying valiantly to paint them as fascinating characters. They're not, even with murder, mayhem, and adultery thrown in. Nor does Conrad succeed as an artful recorder of today's Montana. He can't help trotting out the obligatory Montaniana—barroom fisticuffs, brushes with Mr. Griz, trouty days, whiskey nights—while historical context comes in spurts from the ``Billings was named after Frederick Billings, an executive of the...'' school of background information. He mooches around with a fine disregard for the consequences, a little piece of bravery much to his credit. Most folks Conrad runs into are either forlorn, bitter, drunk, or just plain ready to brawl—bump into someone and get your lights punched out, mention the wrong name and get your lights punched out, offer an ill-timed comment and get your lights punched out. Then again, maybe he just spent too much time in bars. There is a wealth of detail in theses pages, some of it captivating, from ghoulish doings in Great Falls to the virtues of buffalo meat to tensions over wolf reintroduction to the quick portraits of the folks he crosses paths with, but little, if any, continuity. One item is cobbled to another, a pastiche from which an image of Montana never emerges. Don't expect to learn why they call this land the Last Great Place; even as a miscellany, Conrad's sidelong glimpse of Montana never conjures much excitement. (Photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-06-258551-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1994

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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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