An inventive and inspiring memoir from an innovative educator.



A fiction writer chronicles his journey teaching Detroit children to use words to give flight to their imaginations.

For 20 years, Michigan-based novelist and short story writer Markus (The Fish and the Not Fish, 2014, etc.) has worked at the InsideOut Literary Arts Project in Detroit as a writer in residence and educator. In this book, he presents a series of quirky, charming essays that capture some of the exchanges he had with the young inner-city students he taught. Markus begins with a piece that recalls how he transformed an episode of tardiness to class into an occasion to tell his students about the “twelve-legged purple octopus with the goldfish-orange top hat” that made him late. “I wanted to talk to the kids about the powers of the imagination, how words can get us to believe in the unbelievable,” he writes. In “Inside My Magic Pencil,” Markus shares some of the creative visions of his “young seers”—which included everything from a giant purple squid eating a cheeseburger to a rainbow eyeball—after they looked inside pencils that Markus made them believe were “magic.” As he writes in “Caged Brains,” his intent was to make the children “see what nobody else has seen.” With eyes trained to “see beyond the surface,” his students, most of whom struggled with poverty, could then begin to look for beauty in everything from broken glass to crushed violets. In “Nothing Beautiful,” the author recounts how an 8-year-old girl who believed that “nothing is beautiful” in the world later discovered it in herself after her mother told her that she was beautiful. Markus writes in spare yet poetic language that is simple enough to be read and understood by younger readers. However, adults—especially writers and teachers—willing to see with their hearts as well as their minds will also be rewarded for reading this unique book.

An inventive and inspiring memoir from an innovative educator.

Pub Date: March 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-941531-86-0

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Dzanc

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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