Nugent (The Search for the Pink-Headed Duck, 1991—not reviewed), a specialist in cryptozoological adventures—combing the far regions of the earth for undiscovered beasties—takes on Mokele-Mbembe, a brontosaurus-like dinosaur reported to dwell in the rain forests of central Africa. Most of Nugent's wry account consists of his misadventures in getting to Lake Tele in the Congo, purported home of Mokele-Mbembe. The clues are scarce: a few sightings by explorers; a questionable footprint; Pygmy tales of a rusty-skinned, long-necked creature with a single giant tooth. The natives, avid fetishists, revere Mokele-Mbembe as an immensely powerful spirit or god. A determined Nugent spends weeks in the broiling heat of Brazzaville, pleading with petty officials for a travel permit, even undergoing a naked exorcism to help his cause. Finally, the permit materializes and the author sets out for Lake Tele. Along the way, he collects gorgeous butterflies and hideous beetles, drinks crocodile brains, gets butted by a pangolin. And some illusions are shattered: He arrives at a remote village with trinkets for the natives only to find mowed lawns, clipped hedges, and stereos blasting heavy-metal music. But eventually the primeval jungle appears, and Nugent gets lost in it, encountering Pygmies who threaten him with bows and arrows. At last, he spots from about a kilometer away an ``elongated black form that curves in on itself,'' but when he dashes in for a closer look, his guides restrain him at gunpoint, explaining that ``The god can approach man, but man NEVER can approach the god. He would have killed us all.'' Much wittier than most cryptozoological reports (which veer toward stuffiness to counterbalance the jeers)—and a spanking good travelogue to boot. (Photos—not seen)

Pub Date: June 28, 1993

ISBN: 0-395-58707-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1993

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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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