Entertaining, irreverent, but always informative profiles of some 70 pathogens, mostly bacteria and viruses, that share our planet and sometimes our bodies. Although entries are arranged in alphabetical order from adenoviruses to Zika fever, this is no standard reference work. Pulitzer Prizewinning journalist Biddle (Barons of the Sky, 1991, etc.) has fun with it, giving not just the scientific facts but treating these microscopic and submicroscopic entities like personalities: ``The enteroviruses are a large mafia of viruses that inhabit the grand palazzi along the alimentary canal. The most infamous mobster causes polio.'' Along with physical descriptions of the organisms and the afflictions they cause, he provides folklore, some philosophy, some history, and often an update on what mischief the little devils have been up to recentlyoften as recently as 1994. Trivia collectors will discover that Typhoid Mary died of pneumonia, that botulism toxin is used to remove facial wrinkles, and that it was undoubtedly a staph infection that gave Job those painful boils. Entries may be under the name of the organism (Epstein-Barr virus), a disease (yellow fever), a geographical location (``Congo-Crimean/Rift Valley/California/St. Louis''), or even something as general as ``bites.'' There are no formal cross-references, but the text leads from item to related item. Biddle says that he selected his entries on the basis of their top ranking ``in prevalence, or power, or worry factor, or even literary interest.'' (Maybe so, but Zika fever is clearly there just to round out the alphabet.) Especially noteworthy are the 54 illustrations, ranging from microscopic slides of HIV provided by the Centers for Disease Control to wartime posters warning servicemen against syphilis and gonorrhea to a Japanese woodcut depicting measles as a fierce demon. A truly delightful book that manages to impart solid information about some pretty dreadful diseases without depressing or terrifying the reader.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-8050-3531-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1995



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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