Fenton’s highly personal musings on gardening with flowers that can be grown from seed.

In what must be a labor of love—or perhaps an effort to conform to as many English stereotypes as possible—former Oxford professor, gardener, and author Fenton (Leonardo’s Nephew, 1998) here sets down a wish list of 100 types of flowers to try growing in “a blank slate of a garden.” Blatantly flouting current gardening convention, Fenton eschews the tedium of planning a plot’s “bones,” or layout, in favor of growing flowers that simply appeal to one for their own sake. Dreaming of yards that allow for whimsy and chance, he runs through short descriptions of flowers he has known and found intriguing. There is the Himalyan Balsam (#47), “which grew to around six feet, had flowers like pink coal scuttles, and smelt of 1950s hair oil,” and the Spanish poppy (#69), which “hangs around the back door, returning year after year, looking after itself.” Plants are sorted into chapters according to their color, size, tendency to migrate, and ability to look good when cut and displayed in a vase. Fenton duly notes gardening publications he finds interesting, gardens he has grown in the past, and his frustrations with such bromides as the injunction that growing meadow flowers requires gardeners to lower the fertility of their soil. For those who want to cut to the chase, a list of the hundred flowers is appended to the end, along with a short bibliography that includes seed catalogues, and a handy how-to guide to growing flowers from seed. A guide for people who know flowers—not so much a starting point for novices interested in exploring.

Narrow but charming.

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-374-16029-5

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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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