A goodies-filled account of a company just as fascinating as its subject matter.



Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! (Ripley’s Time Warp, 2018, etc.) celebrates a century of amassing curios and unbelievable facts.

This colorful, oversized book opens with a short but detailed biography of company founder and namesake, Robert Ripley. Born in 1890, Ripley was a socially awkward boy who turned his love for art into a career as a cartoonist. When working for the New York Globe in 1918, he created a cartoon panel called “Champs and Chumps,” a compilation of impressive athletic achievements that most consider the inception of Believe It Or Not! We learn about everything from his romances and handball obsession to his love of traveling. After his death in 1949, the company carried on, eventually adding to Ripley’s extensive collection of artifacts from around the world, like Marilyn Monroe’s gown (“the World’s Most Expensive Dress!”). While the collector had been involved in Vitaphone, radio, and TV productions, Believe It Or Not! continued in television and subsequently found its way online in the digital age. The book spotlights the lead cartoonists, from Ripley’s death to the present day, as well as lead researchers, including Norbert Pearlroth, whom Ripley hired in 1923 and who held the position for an astounding 53 years. There’s abundant coverage of places Ripley toured, like India, Africa, and, his favorite country to visit, China; specifics on artifacts collected, including shrunken heads from Ecuador; and descriptions of various attractions, like the company’s trademark Odditoriums, with locations worldwide. As in previous Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! publications, this book is jam-packed with full-page photographs and illustrations. A couple of pages are foldouts, like Ripley’s India-inspired cartoons, and there’s even a two-page collage of the company’s book covers. But the book also prominently features Ripley’s original artwork and comes with replicas (affixed to pages) of such items as an Odditorium pass and a Ripley-designed Christmas card that he would send to friends. Readers will surely appreciate images of Ripley’s personal collection, which filled three homes at the time of his death. But there are more recent acquisitions, too: African fantasy coffins (hard-carved coffins of unusual designs, such as a Mercedes Benz); Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber from the first two Star Wars films; and an artist’s rendering of James Bond’s 1960s Aston Martin made of recycled cardboard and glue. Equally intriguing are highlights of Ripley’s sometimes-provocative cartoons. For example, he published a cartoon soon after Charles Lindbergh’s famous 1927 flight, claiming Lindbergh was the 67th man to make a nonstop flight over the Atlantic Ocean. (This inflamed readers since it seemingly undermined Lindbergh’s achievement. It was a factual statement, however, as Ripley was accounting for all flights, not merely the solo ones.) The work fully catalogs present-day projects (museums and regularly published books) as well as things of yesteryear, such as television series (the Dean Cain–hosted 2000 revival remains in syndication). Overall, it’s a comprehensive package, with illuminating tidbits on Ripley—the man and the franchise.

A goodies-filled account of a company just as fascinating as its subject matter.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-60991-240-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Ripley Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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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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