Having conquered the English Channel in their narrowboat (Narrow Dog to Carcassonne, 2008), the plucky septuagenarian Terry Darlington, his long-suffering wife Monica and their whippet Jim sail the southern portion of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.
The author narrates in a tumbling patchwork of memories, anecdotes, snatches of poetry and minimally punctuated dialogue. The alien spectacle of their narrowboat—60 feet long and less than seven feet wide—drew crowds of onlookers everywhere they stopped, from the Chesapeake Bay to the charming port of Savannah, Ga. Accompanying the pair was Jim, the narrow dog of the title, who valiantly endured what must have been an uncomfortable nine months—and 1,150 miles—spent aboard the Phyllis May. Both dog and owner share a flair for melodrama, and Darlington’s woe-is-me absurdity maintains a reliable comic effect. He is sarcastic and romantic in equal measure, and sharp enough to draw humor from every port of call. For the reader, the joys of their journey are not found in marvels of nature or maritime details—though there are plenty—but in the pair’s irreverent reactions to their seemingly endless hurdles and triumphs. The actual time the Darlingtons spent sailing was minimal; most of their adventures involved being stranded in one seaside town after another, awaiting boat repairs, medical attention or better weather before chugging along. Considering the prodigious outpouring of support and hospitality they encountered on the trip, Darlington can be a bit harsh on the quirky Southern communities they visited—though his chief complaint, besides the state of American lager (fair enough), seemed to be that Jim was not allowed in the bars. One wonders what watery passage they will be tempted to navigate next.
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").
This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)