The jungles of Borneo can bring adventurers to their knees—and elevate adventurous writers to admirable heights, as evidenced by Eric Hansen's Stranger in the Forest (1987) and, now, by free-lance writer Johnston's smart, passionate account of rafting down the island's treacherous Boh River. When Johnston arrived in Jakarta on the first leg of her journey to the Boh, she learned that her luggage had remained in L.A.—a portent of miserable weeks to come. Ill-equipped but still game, she joined her companions, who included—in addition to three guides paid for by Sobek, the travel company sponsoring Johnston as the trip's writer—two high-fashion models, a wealthy Italian, a Florida couple, a Chicago lawyer, and a pair of young Australians. Each flares to life on Johnston's crisp pages, but none more so than the author herself. For as much as an exciting jungle journey, Johnston's trip reveals itself as an odyssey of self-discovery during which she, the only group member over 40, enters menopause. And with the hot flashes that strike in the middle of the steaming nights comes knowledge of a border crossed: ``Yesterday, I had been young; today I was middle-aged.'' Always proud of her physical prowess, Johnston now must reorient herself as a woman whose primary challenges will be emotional and mental, not physical. And the trip itself develops into just such a challenge as the author and her companions struggle through Job-like trials generated by bees, leeches, ants, rapids, waterfalls, floods, rancid food, open sores, foot rot, moldy clothes, and, above all, the unrelenting wet heat that turns the jungle into a sauna from hell: ``I was surprised all over again at how spongy and rotten everything was. The entire forest floor was being devoured by ravenous microorganisms....'' A powerful adventure of the heart as well as the body: not to be missed.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 1992

ISBN: 0-679-74010-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1992

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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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