There are many rooms and seasons in Osler’s (A Gentle Plea for Chaos, 1998) garden: alternatives proliferate in the measure of its days, uncertainties mingle with felicities, there is restoration and ferment, there may even be potential for a decaying piano amid the willows and tall grasses. Osler is a contrarian, but not merely for the sake of being one. It’s more that there is too much potential for her to be stultified by the anointed arbiters of garden taste. She says, “Thank goodness for deviancy . . . and for a sense of fun,” for that is how a garden becomes a creation of one’s own, a sanctuary, an incitement to the senses. There is not so much particular advice in these pages as sound notions for toilers in the soil. “Novice gardeners should allow themselves from the outset the freedom to be as wayward as they want and to follow their instincts.” She can speak sensibly, in the same breath, of unity and balance in the garden, and of rusted objects and mirrors that she has deployed in an effort to achieve those qualities. And she delights in how both the expected and the unexpected can be milked for pleasure in the garden: urns and vegetables, trees (“neglect these at your peril”) and walls (“no garden should be without a wall”), water and benches and follies all have something to contribute. “What I want,” she writes, “is adventure, innovation, foolishness and discovery,” and that extends to bereaved gardeners who suddenly find themselves “left with a legacy that too often loads you down with guilt”: don’t tread water, make the garden your own. Osler never met a garden bully she didn’t instantly dislike. To watch her thumb her nose at the bullies with such flair, and with such gratifying results, is an inspiration.

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 1-55970-454-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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