A tale full of juvenile embellishment aimed squarely at sophisticated adults.


A wealthy New York City family hits the skids and is forced to move into Central Park.

Famously the staff cartoonist for The New Yorker, Roberts brings her strengths and whimsical sense of humor to bear in this heavily illustrated but lightly written novel. The dramatis personae introduced here include Pops, an inventor whose creations have made the family filthy rich; Mother, a bone-skinny matriarch with a perpetual cigarette; Sis, a young performer destined for fringe theater; our narrator, the sweet-natured brother, Alan; as well as servants Gudelia and Usvelia and three pugs. When the family loses everything, they mysteriously find themselves living in the midst of Central Park. Not quite homeless, the family winds up bringing everything, from their couch to their doorman, with them. It’s all quite idyllic at first, as Mother kills swans in the park for coq au vin, and Pops works on inventions like the Diplomatix, an effervescent tablet that teaches how to think like the French. But as Christmas looms, the family dynamics start coming apart at the seams. The illustrations, as one might imagine, are the book’s most winning attribute. Roberts is consistent in her portrayals of the odd family while simultaneously throwing in absurdities, like the sea monster Sis imagines lives in the pond and the Yeti that comes to visit during the winter. But for all the wonders of Roberts’ illustrations, the story is fitfully funny in a style reminiscent of Wes Anderson films. Alan is particularly funny, popping out lines like, “I’m learning Italian. This morning at the Met, I followed a group led by a female guide in Italian. I’m going to acquire Japanese, too, via osmosis.” Those who can’t stand the dandy-ish style of The New Yorker may find this avant-garde children’s book for adults off-putting. For those who value absurdity and have a soft spot for anthropomorphic animals, it’s a richly illustrated treat.

A tale full of juvenile embellishment aimed squarely at sophisticated adults.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-393-07355-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

Did you like this book?

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 15

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize

  • National Book Award Finalist


Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?