Purple Canary


Despite its flaws, this book may be useful for families affected by porphyria and may interest others frustrated by flawed...

A mother helps her daughter cope with a rare disease in this memoir.

Debut author Gould describes her yearslong quest to help her adopted daughter, Jill, who was afflicted with a rare genetic disorder called acute intermittent porphyria starting at age 11. Its symptoms include severe diarrhea, convulsions, and fainting; this caused problems at Jill’s Connecticut school, including frequent absences and trips to the hospital as well as bullying by other students. School officials were largely unsympathetic, the author says, even accusing Jill of being an “attention-seeking faker.” Gould also says that some doctors initially misdiagnosed the affliction, including one who decided that the girl suffered from bipolar disorder. After a genetic test linked Jill to AIP, she received infusions of a blood factor called heme, which seemed to help. But problems persisted, especially at school, leading Gould to believe that “a building filled with toxic chemicals and toxic people”—cleaners, wet erasers, and stress-inducing bullies—were triggering her daughter’s attacks. Tutoring and transfers to other schools didn’t solve the problem, however, although sometimes Jill did improve a bit. By the end of this sad tale, though, Jill is a suicidal heroin addict. In addition to her daughter’s tragic story, Gould also presents some AIP research and websites as well as some of Jill’s own first-person observations. Overall, this book offers a troubling account, and its broadest contribution is how it highlights the difficulties that people with unusual problems face in the American public school and health care systems. Although the author doesn’t prove that toxins at school triggered her daughter’s attacks, she makes some credible assertions. Unfortunately, she bogs the narrative down with too much description of bullying and “ridiculous middle school drama,” and her fondness for acronyms is distracting: “the PPT to set the IEP would be held at KPS.” The prose shows occasional flair, as when Gould describes when a baby Jill “plopped forward like a folded taco.” However, it sometimes suffers from clichés and repetition; for example, the author’s “head bells” always seem to be “clanging” or “jangling,” and people read one another “the riot act” more than once.

Despite its flaws, this book may be useful for families affected by porphyria and may interest others frustrated by flawed education and medical systems in the United States.

Pub Date: June 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-988186-99-3

Page Count: 358

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2016



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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