A worthy concept brought low by abrasive style and slapdash organization.




Feral dogs have their day in this overextended exploration of East St. Louis and its #1 Dog Lover.

News flash: packs of wild dogs are roaming America’s inner cities. Journalist Roth discovered this fact while profiling local fixture Randy Grim for the St. Louis Riverfront Times. Driving a beat-up VW bus, maniacally devoted to the unclaimed canines, and possessed of a catalogue of germ phobias that prevents him from eating at buffets or touching escalator handrails, Grim surely seemed a likely subject for a newspaper profile. But Roth has stretched what could have been an engaging feature essay into something that can’t quite hold its own weight. She begins well enough, if melodramatically, taking the reader along with Grim as he prowls abandoned lots on a snowy night. He pounds up staircases and slips on the ice while an uncomprehending animal attempts to escape its hunter, who illustrates all the while the qualities needed (patience, fearlessness) for a job nobody wants. Grim then recalls his first rescue (which landed him with 13 puppies needing to be fed with an eyedropper every two hours for weeks) and the effect of his new obsession on family and friends. With trademark newspaper prose—the sentence fragment, the one-sentence paragraph, the particular affection for “gray” as a descriptor—Roth clatters her way through Grim’s stalking of one particular pack and his efforts to publicize the plight of the abandoned animals. Along the way, she drops in lessons on the likely evolution of domesticated dogs, the prevalence of dog-fighting, the formation of pack mentality, and the thought processes of wild and domesticated dogs.

A worthy concept brought low by abrasive style and slapdash organization.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-312-28397-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2002

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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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