Entertainingly amusing while also showing sensitivity to children’s complex emotional lives.


An 8-year-old English boy travels by spaceship with a dapper lizard and a troll in this children’s fantasy novel.

Oscar William Tyler of Surbiton, England, discovers a large, talking, pipe-smoking lizard in his garden, dressed in “a shirt, waistcoat, trousers, and bedroom slippers.” The creature reminds Oscar of Grumps, his beloved, recently deceased grandfather. The lizard reveals that his name is “Larry the Lounge Lizard.” Over the coming weeks, the two enjoy several chats, and Oscar is excited to meet Larry’s troll friend, Nicholas Fijmeister, who Larry says is “decent by troll standards…he doesn’t very often try to kill his relatives.” The three take trips in the garden’s apple tree (which magically turns into a spaceship) to Larry’s home world, Tarastaria, which is inhabited by an array of creatures, including trolls like Nicholas, monkeys, humanlike “sloggles,” and monkeylike “gonks.” They’re ruled over by the tyrant Emperor Brummelfritz, whom Larry—an anti-royalist, like Grumps—calls “Emperor Bumface.” Oscar is shocked by the emperor’s cruelty, which includes the slated public execution of an innocent gonk, so he and his friends concoct a daring rescue that could bring democracy to Trolland. After some time back home, Oscar gets a new perspective on his experiences and his grief; his understanding mother says, “Maybe we all somehow find another world to inhabit in order to cope.” Clark’s debut provides silly humor that will appeals to kids’ love of the grotesque, but it also deftly brings out Oscar’s grief over his parents’ divorce and, especially, Grumps’ death; at one point, Oscar compares the latter to “a knife thrust into his heart.” The resemblances between Larry and Grumps are subtle but definite, and young readers can make connections between Oscar’s wish for continued closeness with Grumps and his eagerness to have Larry in his life. Another strength is the fact that Oscar’s parents aren’t clueless or critical; they make a real effort to connect with their son and understand his point of view, which Oscar notices and appreciates. The side characters, too, are well-drawn and contribute to the story.

Entertainingly amusing while also showing sensitivity to children’s complex emotional lives.

Pub Date: March 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-976350-02-3

Page Count: 132

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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