SERIOUS BUSINESS

CARTOONS AND AMERICA, FROM BETTY BOOP TO TOY STORY

This nicely written and generally informative account provides a cursory though useful history of American animated cartoons. Theater critic and former Time staffer Kanfer (The Last Empire: De Beers, Diamonds, and the World, 1993, etc.) chronicles American cartoons from the silent era to very recent efforts by the Disney Studio, beginning with the primitive, surreal work of innovative legend Windsor McCay, then moving on to document the contributions of the Fleischer Studios (creators of Betty Boop and Popeye), Warner Brothers (Merry Melodies and Loony Tunes), Hanna- Barbera (the Flintstones and others), and, of course, Walt Disney. Kanfer doesn't neglect such lesser known but influential figures as Otto Mesmer (creator of Felix the Cat), Paul Terry (Farmer Al Falfa), Walter Lanz (Woody Woodpecker), and Jay Ward (Rocky and Bullwinkle). Serious Business is a solid introductory text, particularly useful to those with little background in the history and sociology of American animated cartoons, successfully demonstrating Kanfer's proposition that ``in their own eccentric way, [cartoons] provide an extraordinary reflection of the society and politics of their time.'' The problem is that Kanfer wants the book to do more than that: His purpose is, finally, he says, to demonstrate that cartoons also powerfully shape our attitudes, not always for the better. Kanfer addresses such important issues as racism in cartoons, cartoons as war propaganda, and the ways in which cartoons reflect issues of identity, conformity, and even anomie (for instance, Ren and Stimpy and Beavis and Butt-head). While certainly instructive, Serious Business's pockets of brief analysis on such difficult issues fail to offer sufficient depth or insight. Taken as the less ambitious but valuable work it truly is, Serious Business offers a lively, thought-provoking introduction to the fascinating complexity of seemingly simple animated cartoons. (b&w illustrations, 8 pages color illustrations, not seen) (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 7, 1997

ISBN: 0-684-80079-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1997

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more