Wallace’s telling tends to glorify them all—no warts at all in this display. Despite that, this is a fascinating portrait of...

A GATHERING OF WONDERS

BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

A catalogue and chronology of the curators of the great (dinosaurs) and small (insects) who have graced the halls of the Museum since its inception in 1869.

Wallace (The American Museum of Natural History’s Book of Dinosaurs and Other Ancient Creatures, 1994) goes the whole nine yards in this paean to the scholars and artists who amassed and mounted the collections on view (or more likely in storage) on New York’s Central Park West. For starters, he celebrates Carl Akeley as both collector and taxidermist: an early voice for biodiversity; Akeley lived to see a sanctuary for the mountain gorilla established in the Belgian Congo in 1925. Also celebrated in the how-to-display-it category is the ceiling suspension of a model of the great blue whale, the largest mammal ever (earlier, fairly preposterous ideas were happily scotched when a canny curator suggested that decaying whale flesh odors wafting across a proposed model of a beached whale would create just the right atmosphere). Best are these longish pieces that create a sense of time, place, and character of the museum and its stars (from Roy Chapman Andrews to Margaret Mead). Otherwise, one tends to get lost in the archives of ichthyology, herpetology, gems, entomology, paleontology (big and little beasts), ornithology, and finally anthropology/ethnography. Yes, they are all here—the painstaking dissectors who sort out species of juncos, spiders, and mammals, fossil fishes and turtles and flies in amber. Some, like Libbie Hyman, spent over 30 years producing volumes of information on all known invertebrates. Others have developed or promoted cladistics (a system of classifying species) or proposed still-controversial ideas about evolution (like the punctuated equilibrium theory of Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldridge).

Wallace’s telling tends to glorify them all—no warts at all in this display. Despite that, this is a fascinating portrait of one of the world’s great museums—and one of New York’s crown jewels.

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-312-25221-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2000

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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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