DEAR MR. JEFFERSON

LETTERS FROM A NANTUCKET GARDENER

Like her garden, Simon's imaginary correspondence with the nation's most illustrious gardener is a beguiling mix of history, whimsy, and practicality. Writing and gardening on Nantucket since 1973, Simon, in the best tradition of the genre, is both agreeably forthright and curious—traits that serve her well as she shares her delight, her concerns, and her knowledge with a man whose gardens at Monticello still reflect his own curiosity and expansive visions of what could be cultivated in the new republic. Deferring to the seasons that define a gardener's year, Simon writes her first letter in late October and her last in mid-August. These times respectively mark the end of one gardening year and the point when the garden for that year ``is Done''—a vague but nonetheless recognizable moment that is ``simply a state of being that commences at a certain time in summer and continues until a killing frost.'' In the letters that precede this point, Simon introduces her varied household and describes both the current state of her garden and appropriate seasonal activities. In her first letter she describes drawing the map of her garden, which will be her guide for the next year's plantings. In others she discusses the merits of various plants and practices; comments on native plants and historic seeds, pondering what varieties Jefferson himself grew; opines on the best tomatoes for pasta sauce; and, as she evokes the exquisite indecision of making her annual catalog orders, reviews seed catalogs' history, which dates back to the early 1700s. Harvesting her garden's bounty, Simon observes how this moment connects to the past and to Jefferson himself, whose favorite ``Tennis Ball'' lettuce she is currently enjoying in salads. Literate evocations of a place and a passion that, like the best of the genre, are as much about living a richly fulfilling life as cultivating a garden. (line drawings)

Pub Date: March 4, 1998

ISBN: 0-609-60097-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1997

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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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MOMOFUKU MILK BAR

With this detailed, versatile cookbook, readers can finally make Momofuku Milk Bar’s inventive, decadent desserts at home, or see what they’ve been missing.

In this successor to the Momofuku cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar’s pastry chef hands over the keys to the restaurant group’s snack-food–based treats, which have had people lining up outside the door of the Manhattan bakery since it opened. The James Beard Award–nominated Tosi spares no detail, providing origin stories for her popular cookies, pies and ice-cream flavors. The recipes are meticulously outlined, with added tips on how to experiment with their format. After “understanding how we laid out this cookbook…you will be one of us,” writes the author. Still, it’s a bit more sophisticated than the typical Betty Crocker fare. In addition to a healthy stock of pretzels, cornflakes and, of course, milk powder, some recipes require readers to have feuilletine and citric acid handy, to perfect the art of quenelling. Acolytes should invest in a scale, thanks to Tosi’s preference of grams (“freedom measurements,” as the friendlier cups and spoons are called, are provided, but heavily frowned upon)—though it’s hard to be too pretentious when one of your main ingredients is Fruity Pebbles. A refreshing, youthful cookbook that will have readers happily indulging in a rising pastry-chef star’s widely appealing treats.    

 

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-72049-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Clarkson Potter

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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