A brisk, useful, and extremely accessible handbook about growing up.




A debut illustrated guide explores the most formative years of modern human life.

Despite its somewhat somber cover image, this book delivers a warm and inviting narrative for young readers and teenagers. (An obstetrician and gynecologist, Spence hopes the manual will also prove useful to parents, caregivers, and teachers.) Each section tackles a new stage of human development, laying out the facts and the science involved in comprehensible language that’s almost always optimistic and upbeat. Each chapter opens with a brief comment directed at young people, an observation that is meant to put the forthcoming matter in perspective, as in the chapter on genetics: “The genetic information that makes up the directions for your growth is similar to a plan to build a Lego toy or to blueprints for building a house.” Or the remark about birth itself: “What a change! You have been growing for nine months in complete darkness, bathed in the amniotic fluid in your mother’s uterus, supplied constantly with nourishment in a warm and protected environment and with only muffled sounds to please your ears.” Accompanied by delightful illustrations by Baker, these chapters take readers from the womb to birth to infancy, through the toddler experience, and into the physical and emotional tangle of the teenage years. With a helpful blend of fact and guidance, the narrative drops its readers off on the doorstep of adulthood. The text is occasionally guilty of oversimplification, as when the audience is told: “Humans, at the top of the animal kingdom, are unique in that their young cannot survive without their mothers or the wider family’s care.” And although the section on same-sex attraction is sensitively nonjudgmental (“It is not for us to judge, but to allow others to be true to themselves”), AIDS is mentioned only a few sentences after homosexuality is first introduced. But in general, the manual Spence creates in these pages is an invaluably clear and straightforward collection of answers to the most basic questions his young readers will have about the stages of their lives.

A brisk, useful, and extremely accessible handbook about growing up.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5255-1177-6

Page Count: 186

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2018

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.


A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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