Shedd succeeds in his self-appointed task as public relations man for besmirched wildlife reputations, erasing the distaste...

OWLS AREN'T WISE AND BATS AREN'T BLIND

A NATURALIST DEBUNKS OUR FAVORITE FALLACIES ABOUT WILDLIFE

Entertaining squelchings of wildlife humbuggery from former National Wildlife Federation executive Shedd.

It is time for our warped ideas of wildlife to be straightened out, declares Shedd in his engaging and conversational tone, time to weed out those heinous lies that keep us from communing on a deeper level with the armadillo, muskat, heron, moose, or bear. Shedd has not gathered a rogue’s gallery of sideshow freaks or microscopic critters, verminous or venomous, but rather a company of familiar animals that has been given a bad rap. It doesn’t take him long to point out that a red squirrels do not castrate gray squirrels, or that flying squirrels can’t fly, or that the moose is not very happy to be petted. Some of these myths surrounding animals surely don’t need to be debunked—that weasels kill for the love of it, for example, or that a crow can “imitate a human voice better if its tongue is split”—for it is hard to believe they were bunked to begin with. Others are highly subjective (toads may indeed be repulsive to some, contrary to Shedd’s assertion that they are not ugly), while still others are more in the nature of quibbles than errors (for instance, that a porcupine’s quills don’t have barbs but overlapping scales). So Shedd has some time on his hands here and he uses it wisely, more interestingly and valuably, to sketch quick portraits of these animals, some three dozen, yielding a primer on habitat, behavior, and the niches they have carved for themselves. He includes those little quirks that make them so appealing: how the eft got its name and why we call it a newt, when it is better to be a marten than a fisher, why the lynx has tufts on its ears.

Shedd succeeds in his self-appointed task as public relations man for besmirched wildlife reputations, erasing the distaste we might harbor for these otherwise captivating animals. (27 b&w line drawings)

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-609-60529-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harmony

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2000

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

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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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

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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