Hard travel in a land both severe and—this is the neat trick—beckoning. (photographs, maps)



If you like your landscapes cold, quiet, and austere, welcome to Ellesmere Island, photojournalist Kobalenko's spiritual (and part-time) home, where you needn't bother with thermometers or maps because you really don't want to know.

It’s up north: “Think of the little metal disk that sits on top of a globe,” writes the author. “Ellesmere is under that.” Kobalenko has logged more miles on the island's 76,000 square miles than any known human, with the exception of the Greenlander Nukapinguaq. He is drawn to its “physical beauty, its cold, its nontechnical terrain, its isolation . . . its unwalked expanses, its alien flavor, [which] all felt like a purer form of my own inner geography.” Keeping his observations and historical anecdotes as spare and flinty as the land, Kobalenko coaxes a very wild portrait of a place where you can sled along behind dogs under Northern Lights for weeks at a time, have a fine chance of coming eyeball-to-eyeball with a polar bear, or eat your whisky rather than drink it (just leave it out in the 70-below chill). The author delights in following in the footsteps of men and women who went before him. Admiral Peary spent time on the island, as did a host of lesser-lights in the Arctic exploration community, many of them (Hans Krüger, Alfred Björling, Otto Sverdrup) meeting dreadful ends on the spot. Kobalenko’s search for mementos takes him all over the island, from one extreme end—literally and figuratively—the other. In the process he witnesses rainbow-colored lenticular clouds, white wolves that don't fear humans, “the best-known rock on Ellesmere” (an example of his wispy, dry humor), and sites where ancient people lived, though “God knows how these early Stone Age cultures survived.”

Hard travel in a land both severe and—this is the neat trick—beckoning. (photographs, maps)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-56947-266-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Soho

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 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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