Being a stay-at-home dad, the father of four children and the primary caregiver for an assortment of pets, including two mini-pigs, may not be everyone's cup of tea, but this intrepid British author lived to tell the tale.

Whyman (Goldstrike, 2010, etc.), whose fiction tends toward dark tales of adventure and mayhem, also writes advice columns for young people. In this humorous chronicle of a year in the life of a London family transplanted to a rural suburb, the author describes his misadventures as a stay-at-home dad responsible for the care of two adolescent daughters, a young son and daughter, a ferocious Canadian sheep dog, assorted chickens, a cat and the two pigs. Adding mini-pigs to the family had seemed to be a fun idea. Whyman explains that reportedly the pigs were highly sociable and were “one of the smartest species on the planet after humans, chimps, and dolphins.” The expectation was that they would be easy house pets, but reality proved otherwise. Although they were smaller than ordinary pigs, they quickly grew too large to keep in the house. Not easily house-trained, the pigs ate the remote controls on the video-game console and raided the kitchen looking for food. Despite protests from his children, Whyman insisted that they be kept outdoors, but containing them created another set of problems as they raided the hen house for eggs, dug up the lawn and broke through fences. According to the author's account, his series of mishaps ended only when he took the advice of a helpful local farmer and accepted that his pets were indeed barnyard animals. They ultimately became less destructive, but they did not evince empathetic or other qualities characteristic of chimps and dolphins. While the author successfully milks his account for laughs, animal lovers may be disappointed.


Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4516-1828-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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

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