Another triumph for England’s most innovative biographer, and a marvelous treat for fans of Bewick’s beguiling work.

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NATURE’S ENGRAVER

A LIFE OF THOMAS BEWICK

A wonderful portrait of the man whose exquisite woodcuts of landscapes and creatures reflected the essence of British rural life.

Uglow (The Lunar Men, 2002, etc.) brings us deep into the Northumberland countryside along the Tyne, where Thomas Bewick (1753–1828) grew up. A truant with a gift for drawing and a penchant for close observation of nature, he apprenticed himself at 14 to a Newcastle engraver and began a lifetime of etching on wood. By day, Bewick, and later his apprentices, handled commercial orders for engraving on mugs, coffin plates, posters and bar bills. In his spare time, he worked painstakingly on lively borderless woodcuts for such celebrated books as The Quadrupeds and History of British Birds, which found an eager audience among both children and adults. Woodcuts from Bewick’s workshop illustrated some 750 children’s books, religious tracts and other volumes published between 1770 and 1830. His circus posters, with ballet riders on horseback turning somersaults or hanging from the saddle, also delighted his countrymen. Working with his own tools—James Audubon noted their unusual delicacy—Bewick transformed the hitherto humble medium of the woodblock into an art, producing accurate images of birds and animals in an era increasingly enamored of natural history but lacking color photography. Uglow’s detailed account covers Bewick’s family life and political involvements, but she really shines when evoking the engraver’s bracing country walks, his affection for farmers and other locals and his passion for wildlife, all of which informed his work. We see him in his workshop working the wood, perfecting techniques that created a school of followers. An unabashed admirer, the author writes of Bewick’s “instinctive sympathy and astonished awe at the beauty of living things,” and we see it for ourselves in the book’s many illustrations.

Another triumph for England’s most innovative biographer, and a marvelous treat for fans of Bewick’s beguiling work.

Pub Date: June 12, 2007

ISBN: 0-374-11236-3

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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