Wit and nostalgia mitigate, but don’t entirely compensate for, a weak story arc and lack of emotional engagement.

PITCH PERFECT

THE QUEST FOR A CAPELLA GLORY

Endearing but ultimately disappointing inquiry into collegiate a cappella via three beloved groups.

With a fanatical fan base and famous alums including Barbara Streisand, Prince, John Legend, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, even Osama bin Laden, collegiate a cappella has been a cultural touchstone for much of the 20th century. GQ senior editor Rapkin, who was a member of Cornell University’s Cayuga’s Waiters, approaches the subject in the tradition of popular films like Spellbound and Wordplay (and the Christopher Guest movies that mock them). He focuses largely on three groups. The all-female Divisi from the University of Oregon is a relatively new band that has become a favorite on the competition circuit. The Tufts Beelzebubs are known as the gold standard for music arrangement and album recording. The University of Virginia’s Hullabahoos, also a newer group, has a rock star-reputation, gigs opening for the Lakers and plenty of girls lining up on campus to meet them. Some colorful characters emerge, particularly Divisi’s founder, who stayed on at Oregon long past her prime to shape her squad; a troubled young music director at Tufts who left the Bubs in a lurch when he had to go on medical leave; and a handsome Hullabahoo who attracted wealthy old benefactors with his youthful looks and charm. Perhaps even more amusing are the alums who can’t let go: One Tufts grad made a career out of producing a cappella albums, and another continued to lend his country home to the Bubs even after they accidentally burned down the house they were renting from him in Somerville, Mass. Still, the author fails to enable readers to connect with the amusing, astonishing and, most importantly, human aspects of this obsessive hobby. Though Rapkin highlights several competitions and notable gigs throughout the book, there is no conclusive event or end moment to wrap things up.

Wit and nostalgia mitigate, but don’t entirely compensate for, a weak story arc and lack of emotional engagement.

Pub Date: June 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-592-40376-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Gotham Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2008

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

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

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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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON

This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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