An unusual, engaging historical biography of a California artist.



A beautifully illustrated book by a former teacher that sheds light on the intriguing life of a pioneer woman.

Passero’s debut tells the little-known story of Clara Mason Fox, an artist and poet who led a rather adventurous, exciting life. Fox, the author’s husband’s ancestor, was a member of a pioneer family who moved to California in 1887. She later traveled to New York to attend art school and became a painter and poet, capturing some early images of Laguna Beach and Orange County. Passero’s project was spurred by the discovery of a box in a family attic, and it’s a labor of love that sheds light on a fascinating time in American history. She describes her extensive research in her quest to discover as much about Fox as she could. The author worked as a teacher for many years and this book seems to be aimed in part at younger readers; as a result, she weaves in sentences such as “Imagine what it was like not having any of these [modern] conveniences” to help bring the setting to life. Her inclusion of some of Fox’s paintings and sketches also works very well, resulting in an unusual combination of text and visual art that illustrates Fox’s artistic talents. The author sometimes fleshes out historical context and descriptions of early California landscapes at the expense of Fox’s story, and readers may find themselves wanting to know more about this pioneer woman’s inner life. That said, the book provides a good jumping-off point for exploring both Fox’s life and the history of the state she loved so much. Passero reveals that local California organizations have recently shown interest in Fox’s work and that some of Fox’s paintings will be exhibited at the Huntington Library in San Marino. She says that she hopes to continue generating interest in Fox’s life and work, and with this book, she seems to be doing a great job of making that happen.

An unusual, engaging historical biography of a California artist.

Pub Date: March 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-62652-008-0

Page Count: 104

Publisher: Mill City Press, Inc.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



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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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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