Writers and others will find inspiration in the advice to stop and hear the birds.

A meditation on freedom and confinement and the creative tension between the two.

Maclear (Julia Child, 2014, etc.) has written books for children and adults and some that blur the distinction with appeal for both, but she has never written a book quite like this. Also, few other books on birding are anything like this, for her “observation” is mainly restricted to urban Toronto, where the kinds of birds she sees aren’t likely to be exotic. What grabs and holds readers’ attention is the author’s own attention, as she describes in detail what she is seeing, how she is feeling, and how her perception and perspective are both shifting, however subtly. She began her unlikely bird year during “the winter I found myself with a broken part. I didn’t know what it was that was broken, only that whatever widget had previously kept me on plan, running fluidly along, no longer worked as it should….I had lost the beat.” Her father was ailing, her work was faltering, and, in what she calls her “roomy marriage,” she needed to explore something outside. “In my husband’s presence,” she writes, “I have felt my solitude dissolve, but I have also felt lonelier than the moon; such are the contradictions of intimacy.” The simple precision of Maclear’s prose belies the depth, as if the book were the tip of the iceberg and what she has elided or omitted constitutes the rest. She attached herself to a birding musician as a guide (her husband is also a musician; neither is named in the text), and it was through what she experienced with him that she discovered new ways of seeing and being. “The birds tell me not to worry, that the worries that sometimes overwhelm me are little in the grand scheme of things,” she discovered. By this point, she had outgrown the need for a guide.

Writers and others will find inspiration in the advice to stop and hear the birds.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5420-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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