If Lawrence Welk had been a comedian, this is the book he might have written—pleasing for a certain demographic.

Family-oriented, family-directed humor from the longtime Prairie Home Companion head writer.

What’s a terrible place to take your family on vacation? Why, for one, “Vladimir Putin’s House of Fun.” And, for another, “Walmart.” Papa kids; he jokes; he japes, always within a G- (or, in daring moments, PG-) rated milieu. The formula is pure post-Keillor-ian Midwestern, Mort Sahl toned way down: Start with an observation (“men are ruthless and aggressive and powerful”), joke it away (“that’s how we kept wild animals from eating the children”), and then carry it over to a secondary observation (“this is why putting this animal instinct aside and acting like a ‘great guy’ is a fraud”) And again: “Fish are great. You always know where they are, you’re never going to find a fish eating out of your garbage, and they don’t jump up on the kitchen table and start licking plates.” It’s shtick, but within its own narrow confines, it works just fine. It’s not too challenging or too topical, and it draws people in with an in-on-the-joke “oh, yeah.” If you’re a parent, you’re already in on a big swath of Papa’s humor; it makes eminent good business sense, on that front, to buy into his idea of a restaurant for kids called Plain Pasta: “Anyone with a child would be making reservations months in advance, planning their birthday parties and ordering take-out.” No doubt. And no one with a child will contest the author’s position that of all the categories of relatives one might have, the aunt is the coolest. In small doses the groaners are great, but in larger ones—well, it’s like being around someone much older and forcing a smile to keep the peace.

If Lawrence Welk had been a comedian, this is the book he might have written—pleasing for a certain demographic.

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-14438-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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