This gripping study of ``mad cow disease'' by Rhodes (The Making of the Atomic Bomb, 1987, etc.) weaves careful research and powerful stories into a chilling narrative that often reads more like science fiction. Indeed, Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle gets credit for prescience at one point: The plot of that novel involves an aberrant form of ice crystal that freezes the oceans and brings about the end of life on earth. For ice crystal, read ``prion,'' the term coined by Stanley Prusiner, a California biochemist/neurologist, to describe a proteinaceous infectious particle that is thought to work by triggering the aberrant folding of a normal brain protein. The end result is fatty deposits in the brain, holes where nerve cells used to be, and, eventually, death. There is no cure. The scary thing about the TSEs (transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, a generic term used to refer to several diseases generating this damage in humans and animals) is that they can be passed within, and sometimes across, species by the consumption of suspect tissues. (Many kinds of animal feed include ground-up animal parts.) Normal chemicals and heat treatment that inactivate DNA do not, for some reason, destroy TSE agents. Rhodes faults the British for being terribly slow to get started slaughtering infected herds and for failing to insure that farmers complied with new regulations for feed preparation. He goes on to assert that there is enough evidence to suggest that Americans may also fall victim to cross-species brain diseases: the animal TSEs exist here, and we are regularly exposed to a variety of products (milk, meat, gelatin) that may carry infection. Rhodes's argument, that suveillance and protection are needed as much as research, is persuasive. A powerful and alarming book. (First serial to Washington Post magazine; Book-of-the-Month Club/Quality Paperback Book Club alternate selection; author tour)

Pub Date: March 20, 1997

ISBN: 0-684-82360-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1997

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



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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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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