BLACK STARS IN A WHITE NIGHT SKY

Staid design masks a terrific collection of poetic surprises, observations and ruminations on topics as varied as discovering sunken treasure but not taking it, meeting an unusually eloquent “Elephant,” considering the prospect of eating “Frog On A Cob” again—“I can’t stand the smell of it, / cannot think well of it, / live with the hell of it / day after day”—and, in the title poem, using the “inward-gazing mind” to reverse what the “outward-dazing eye” sees. Displaying an uncommon ear for sound-play, Lawson also introduces a range of quirky characters, from “Thirsty Kirsten” and “Merciful Percival” to a beloved witch (“I knew what you were, / but I couldn’t resist / when your moon-haloed silhouette / rose from the mist”) and a “Handsome Prince” who decides to kiss Rip Van Winkle rather than Sleeping Beauty. Tjia’s monochromatic wash illustrations generally interpret these sparklers literally, but sometimes take imaginative leaps of their own. Despite the variety of tone and subject, the poet’s voice and sensibility are clear and consistent in this above-average gathering. (notes) (Poetry. 11-15)

Pub Date: March 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-59078-521-8

Page Count: 118

Publisher: Wordsong/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2008

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Sympathetic in tone, optimistic in outlook, not heavily earnest: nothing to be afraid of.

SCARED STIFF

50 PHOBIAS THAT FREAK US OUT

Part browsing item, part therapy for the afflicted, this catalog of irrational terrors offers a little help along with a lot of pop psychology and culture.

The book opens with a clinical psychologist’s foreword and closes with a chapter of personal and professional coping strategies. In between, Latta’s alphabetically arranged encyclopedia introduces a range of panic-inducers from buttons (“koumpounophobia”) and being out of cellphone contact (“nomophobia”) to more widespread fears of heights (“acrophobia”), clowns (“coulroiphobia”) and various animals. There’s also the generalized “social anxiety disorder”—which has no medical name but is “just its own bad self.” As most phobias have obscure origins (generally in childhood), similar physical symptoms and the same approaches to treatment, the descriptive passages tend toward monotony. To counter that, the author chucks in references aplenty to celebrity sufferers, annotated lists of relevant books and (mostly horror) movies, side notes on “joke phobias” and other topics. At each entry’s end, she contributes a box of “Scare Quotes” such as a passage from Coraline for the aforementioned fear of buttons.

Sympathetic in tone, optimistic in outlook, not heavily earnest: nothing to be afraid of. (end notes, resource list) (Nonfiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-936976-49-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Zest Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2013

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JAM!

THE STORY OF JAZZ MUSIC

A busy page design—artily superimposed text and photos, tinted portraits, and break-out boxes—and occasionally infelicitous writing (“Trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie became . . . bandleader of the quintet at the Onyx Club, from which bebop got its name”) give this quick history of jazz a slapdash air, but Lee delves relatively deeply into the music’s direct and indirect African roots, then goes beyond the usual tedious tally of names to present a coherent picture of specific influences and innovations associated with the biggest names in jazz. A highly selective discography will give readers who want to become listeners a jump start; those seeking more background will want to follow this up with James Lincoln Collier’s Jazz (1997). (glossary, further reading, index) (Nonfiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8239-1852-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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