Empire is a distant memory among younger Russians. But, as Longworth observes at the close of this useful survey, “nothing...

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RUSSIA

THE ONCE AND FUTURE EMPIRE FROM PRE-HISTORY TO PUTIN

Russia is down; losing an empire will do that to a country. But, counsels historian Longworth, it would be a mistake to count it out.

Most empires, Longworth argues, rise and fall, never to rise again. But Russia has seen four major empires in the past nine centuries, each rising from the ashes of the other. Even in pre-history, the nation saw uncommonly large populations in civilized centers, such as the 6,000-year-old Talyanky site, which was home to more than 10,000 people. The first true empire was the great mercantile power of Kievan Rus, which fell in the 1200s after forging trade bonds with far-flung nations throughout Asia and Europe; as Longworth writes, it might have endured longer but for a flawed system of succession by which families splintered into competing factions, all of which might have been solved, ironically, by a stronger centralized government. The second empire followed with the rise of Muscovy, which, “rather than striving for an imperial role…stumbled into one” following the collapse of Ottoman power in Europe. This second empire, like its successor, the Romanov dynasty, expanded in all directions, conquering and creating client states in Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia and points east. By Longworth’s account, that eastward expansion, which created an immense colonial empire, was almost accidental; Russia’s rulers came to command it “innocently, without realizing the world significance of the fact.” That may be arguable, given the vast natural wealth of Siberia and Russia’s southern steppes, and certainly the command of the last empire, the Soviet, over the region was meant to be absolute; when communism was pressed on the native Chukchi people of the far north, they resisted, reasonably, saying that it would not increase the number of walruses.

Empire is a distant memory among younger Russians. But, as Longworth observes at the close of this useful survey, “nothing is immutable,” and if history is a guide, Russia’s empire will rise again.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-312-36041-X

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2006

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

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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MOMOFUKU MILK BAR

With this detailed, versatile cookbook, readers can finally make Momofuku Milk Bar’s inventive, decadent desserts at home, or see what they’ve been missing.

In this successor to the Momofuku cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar’s pastry chef hands over the keys to the restaurant group’s snack-food–based treats, which have had people lining up outside the door of the Manhattan bakery since it opened. The James Beard Award–nominated Tosi spares no detail, providing origin stories for her popular cookies, pies and ice-cream flavors. The recipes are meticulously outlined, with added tips on how to experiment with their format. After “understanding how we laid out this cookbook…you will be one of us,” writes the author. Still, it’s a bit more sophisticated than the typical Betty Crocker fare. In addition to a healthy stock of pretzels, cornflakes and, of course, milk powder, some recipes require readers to have feuilletine and citric acid handy, to perfect the art of quenelling. Acolytes should invest in a scale, thanks to Tosi’s preference of grams (“freedom measurements,” as the friendlier cups and spoons are called, are provided, but heavily frowned upon)—though it’s hard to be too pretentious when one of your main ingredients is Fruity Pebbles. A refreshing, youthful cookbook that will have readers happily indulging in a rising pastry-chef star’s widely appealing treats.    

 

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-72049-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Clarkson Potter

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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