From the Elements in Publishing and Book Culture series

To the ranks of marginalized populations historically stereotyped in children’s literature Terras adds one that has been hitherto sadly overlooked: the academician.

Given that, as the author demonstrates, one popular stereotype of her subject is of “an elderly white able-bodied scruffy man with sticking-out messy hair” and “with wealth or at least disposable income, and…a support network of wife or housekeeper to aid and assist them,” it may be hard for readers to muster much sympathy. Nevertheless, her description of her methodology and findings has much to offer children’s-literature researchers. The project began as a lark, Terras discloses in her acknowledgments, with tweeted commentary on the books she was reading to her young sons. It grew into a Tumblr supplied with examples trolled for during “boring staff meetings” and then into a four-year research project. The arduous assembly of her corpus alone will garner nods of recognition. Finding her 289 books was a challenge that combined keyword searches of online bibliographies, booksellers, reviews, and digitized public-domain texts and the generosity of her social media circle. Then there was the conundrum of defining a professor: the faculty of Hogwarts—not, strictly speaking, an institution of higher education? Yes; “generic scientists”? No. For that matter, and in some contradiction to the work’s title, Terras’ definition of “picture book” is a loose one, encompassing both illustrated books and picture books. Once she dives into her analyses, readers will find themselves admiring her diligence in submitting such characters as Doctor Sock, Professor Nut, and Professor Mudweed to close textual reading. Unfortunately, so seriously does she take her subject that she too often indulges in polysyllabic academic-speak (“Quantitative approaches are used in tandem with detailed qualitative analysis, juxtaposing close and distant reading and treating both illustrations and their surrounding stories as unified texts”). This is a shame; when unleashed, her natural prose style sparkles, as when she mourns in one of the many footnotes her inability to investigate several titles printed in Southeast Asia: “No business trip to these countries was forthcoming, alack.” Still, her oft-voiced regret that even in fiction, “children’s literature seems to veer towards safe, established, dominant tropes that allow plots to develop without much explanation, rather than behaving imaginatively” is one many will recognize. Readers unfamiliar with some of the older, public domain works discussed will be grateful that her companion title, The Professor in Children’s Literature (2018), anthologizes many of them.


Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-108-43845-2

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Cambridge Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2019

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.


A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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