A witty, cynical, and ultimately charming account by an English expatriate married to a native and trying to raise his children in Italy. Parks (Italian Neighbors, 1992) has lived in Italy for the past decade, teaching English at the University of Verona. The author of seven novels (Shear, 1994, etc.), he brings his perceptive analysis of human nature to bear on the eternally fascinating Italians and their perennially exasperating rules, regulations, and requirements. Here the focus is on his young family: wife Rita and children Michele and Stefania. The author amusingly describes the national obsession with its offspring. In a country with the lowest birthrate in the world (1.3 per family), Italian children are pampered, spoiled, and humored from their very first day of life. For an atheist Englishman, sometimes it all seems too much. It is not only the children who are receiving an Italian education, but Parks himself. Like many others, he discovers, ``The story of my fatherhood has been that of a long strategic retreat from the systems I had hoped to impose.'' In the end, his children will succumb to what has been called Italy's ``fatal charm.'' This seduction can (possibly) be resisted by adults who scorn the cult of the Madonna, stories of statues that weep blood, and the worship of Mamma. But for Michele and Stefi, Italy is part enchanted playland, part elaborate facade, part intricate labyrinth. As many expatriates have discovered, living in Italy can be overwhelmingly complicated; Parks's short chapters chronicle his adventures with the often absurdly contradictory system of laws governing everything from getting a fishing license to buying a home—and his discovery of ways to navigate around them. Small vignettes of life, fragments of society, aphorisms of a people and a culture that add up to a thoroughly enjoyable look underneath Italy's tourist facade.

Pub Date: July 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-8021-1508-X

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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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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