Throwbacks, maybe, but Halpern is “impressed by their fierce pioneer spirit, clearly atavistic, but proudly unyielding.” You...



Five choice samples from Halpern’s journalistic beat of “outlandish and often hellish [places] inhabited by a handful of stalwarts who refused to leave.”

Sometimes it’s just one stalwart, like Jack Thompson, sole resident of Royal Gardens, Hawaii, a little lava-encircled island with plenty more lava creeping its way. Then there’s Thad Knight, who stayed put when Hurricane Floyd inundated Princeville, North Carolina, arguably the first incorporated black town in the US. After Knight come the residents of Whittier, Alaska, living in a claustrophobic and otherworldly 14-story high-rise nestled in the tongue of a glacier—people who, in one resident’s words, “came here running from something.” At first glance, Malibu, California, hardly seems outlandish and hellish—that is, until fire season starts, marking a clear distinction between those who run and those who stay to guard the homestead against the wind-whipped flames. Lastly, there’s the fellow who rides the mean storms off the Gulf of Mexico on a spit of land in the south of Louisiana. What we have here, Halpern suggests, are people with genuine pride of place and sense of home, not despite of but in response to the strange and daring environs: “Perhaps, over the years, their intimacy with danger and their ability to survive created a deep sense of pride and belonging.” They are individualistic, self-reliant, respectful of nature (except for Princeville, their landscapes are marked by sheer magnificence), and, often as not, happy to be free of government and society. These are people linked inextricably to the places they live, devoted and hardy, a little rough around the edges, humorous and stoic, capable of making their own definitions of heaven on earth.

Throwbacks, maybe, but Halpern is “impressed by their fierce pioneer spirit, clearly atavistic, but proudly unyielding.” You will be, too. (12 b&w photos)

Pub Date: July 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-618-15548-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2003

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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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