Flashy design and boldly colored graphics give this short, heavily illustrated look at the variety and history of alphabets instant visual appeal; sequences showing the development of pictograms to abstract signs seem lit from behind, and each member of more than a dozen alphabets is separately boxed in a dazzling color. Samoyault (Give Me A Sign!, 1997) opens with a discussion of the occasionally intuitive relationship between letters and actual sounds (she includes syllabaries in her definition of alphabet). She then goes on to summarize the history of writing, including the Mesopotamian transmogrification of pictures into cuneiform, the later appearance of Greek and related alphabets, the effects of the introduction of movable type, and letters as art, closing with a passage from Kipling’s Just So story, “How The Alphabet Was Made.” It’s a minor survey—e.g., neither Cherokee nor Japanese appear on the alphabetic family tree—and the impact of computer-assisted design, while evident on every page, is not explicitly described, but readers will find it impossible not to linger over the galleries of Devanagari, Braille, Etruscan, Japanese katakana, and the rest. (glossary) (Nonfiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-87808-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A must-read for Michigan fans and behind-the-curtain peekers.



An insider look at the controversial tenure of Rich Rodriguez at one of college football’s most storied programs.

The University of Michigan, college football’s all-time winningest program, has tradition in spades; what it hasn’t had recently is success. Enter Rodriguez, one of the game’s hottest coaches—an apparently ideal match of innovative coach with resource-rich university that seemed to guarantee a championship contender. As Bacon (co-author: Bo's Lasting Lessons: The Legendary Coach Teaches the Timeless Fundamentals of Leadership, 2008, etc.) writes, however, what looks good on paper doesn’t always translate to the field. By virtue of Rodriguez granting him unrestricted access to the team, the author offers a behind-the-scenes look as the hallowed program descended into turmoil, including a 2008 season that saw the Wolverines go 3-9, their first losing season since 1967. While some of the reasons for the decline were predictable—a cupboard relatively bare of talent, the inevitable difficulties of implementing his unique spread offense—Rodriguez also struggled to win over key “Michigan Men” through a series of PR gaffes. Bacon’s intimate relationship with the coaching staff and players, combined with his extensive knowledge of Michigan football and the inner workings of the university’s administration, contextualizes the narrative in a way the national press couldn’t during Rodriguez’s stormy tenure, which ended with his firing in January 2011 after the school’s worst bowl loss ever. Rodriguez emerges as a sympathetic figure, a hard-working, salt-of-the-earth coach foiled by self-interested administrators, a fractured alumni base, a media intent on generating controversial headlines and his own initially callous treatment of Michigan tradition. The book’s myopic focus makes it difficult to determine whether Michigan’s dysfunction is emblematic of all major programs, but it’s a fascinating look inside a team whose fans, despite its recent hardships, remain rabid.

A must-read for Michigan fans and behind-the-curtain peekers.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8090-9466-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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A passionate, well-reported history of the role Texas football played in America’s racial integration.



Consummate sports chronicler Dent (Courage Behind the Game: The Freddie Steinmark Story, 2012, etc.) examines a transformative football event in Texas that blurred racial boundaries.

Back when sports “lacked the glitz, the megamillions, and the idolization,” one popular all-star game stole the spotlight from all other arenas: the Big 33 Football Classic. Pitting two teams of 33 high school football all-star players against each other, it was the ultimate rivalry competition. Dent begins his coverage of two pivotal incarnations of the event in 1964, as Texas bowed to Pennsylvania in a crushing 12-6 loss. The defeat enraged Texas coach Bobby Layne, a former superstar quarterback saddled with a drinking habit and relentless hubris. With the able assistance of longtime friend and former teammate Doak Walker and the approval of then-mayor John Connally, the Texas all-star team enlisted three exceptionally talented but largely ignored black players who had yet to be integrated into the Texas games: James Harris, George Dunford and Jerry “the Jet” LeVias, a beefy yet swift scholarship athlete who fought through a polio-riddled childhood to emerge a gifted athlete with the NFL. LeVias was befriended by talented white high school quarterback Bill Bradley, his “blue-eyed soul brother,” who rejected segregationist norms of the time to become LeVias’ roommate and best friend. The sold-out, media-frenzied Big 33 game in 1965 found Texas taking victorious strides in both football and racial equality. Dent includes generous sections of lively game play, personal profiles and interesting postscripts from Coach Layne, Walker, Bradley, LeVias and respected black Texas high school coach Clifton Ozen.

A passionate, well-reported history of the role Texas football played in America’s racial integration.

Pub Date: Aug. 20, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-250-00785-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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