A sincere, often thoughtful (if very crunchy) memoir about fatherhood off the beaten path.

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A FATHER'S LIFE

Sarosy shares stories from his life as a father and teacher in this debut memoir on parenthood set from 2015 to 2017 in New Mexico.

On a perfect October evening, the author helped his 4-year-old daughter, Agnes, and her friend Sully rake crisp cottonwood leaves into a pile and jump into them. Another evening, Agnes told her father that she “no longer needs shushes,” the calming sounds he had offered her since she was a baby, causing him to feel the heartbreak of a father whose child is growing older. In the fresh January snow, Sarosy attempted to coax a wayward child back into a group pretending to be horses while pulling a sled. Collected from the two years Sarosy spent helping to run a “forest kindergarten” (an exploration-centered preschool conducted almost entirely outdoors) in northern New Mexico, these short essays explore his life as a father and teacher, both to his daughter and to the other children in his care. In some ways, he was part of a supportive community, living on a commune that shared chores and food among the many residents. In other ways, he was a single father attempting to raise his daughter the right way. Sarosy expertly depicts the rhythms of the natural world: “Cottonwood leaves are heart-shaped, with crenulated edges reminiscent of the course of rivers, or the movement of snakes. Turning gold in the fall, the trees, a cousin of aspens, are radiant and noisy, showering leaves like gold dust whenever a good breeze picks up.” The best essays, like “Catcher in the Rye,” (which contrasts his joy at catching sledding children to keep them from sliding over a river bank with the commune’s inability to discover what is killing their turkeys), make thoughtful arguments about the difficulties of raising children in a dangerous world. Most, however, are simple vignettes that read more as diary entries than fully fleshed-out treatises. Sarosy doesn’t answer all of the questions readers may have about his commune lifestyle, but parents with hippie-ish inclinations may find inspiration in this work about giving one’s children a highly tactile early education surrounded by animals and nature.

A sincere, often thoughtful (if very crunchy) memoir about fatherhood off the beaten path.

Pub Date: March 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-09-105650-3

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: May 13, 2019

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

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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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

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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