INTO THE PORCUPINE CAVE AND OTHER ODYSSEYS

ADVENTURES OF AN OCCASIONAL NATURALIST

Elegant, low-profile, life-shaping events in the outdoors, from naturalist Warner. Collected here in ten essays are just the type of experiences that in their undramatic way quietly become the stuff of memory. For Warner, these indelible episodes took place in nature, and the why of this is explained in a moving introductory piece on his first forays into the wild under the tutelage of his irascible step-grandfather, who served in lieu of a father. The incidents cum adventures include digging for fossils in central Utah with a friend and a professor from Princeton in 1941 (said friend then shipping out after Pearl Harbor and dying in the Pacific), and hearing the thunderous slap of orcas” flukes reverberate through the Patagonian hills (“I wanted to explore la tiera mas austral del mundo . . . I would do this entirely on my own, using only public transportation wherever such existed”) again in the early 1940s. During the same war that killed his friend, he first viewed a coral reef community through a pair of Hawaiian spear-fishing goggles made of wood and glass and an inner tube, and began asking all the right questions: Why all the color? Why all the variety? Why does this phenomenon touch me so? Some of the locales are impossibly remote or just plain difficult to get to—Ellesmere Island, the Virginia barrier islands—while other places ensnare him in their force field, such as the Dry Tortugas, where amid the noddies and frigates and boobies of every persuasion a merlin dives and plucks a warbler from the air within inches of his ear. Such breadth of subject matter is no problem for Warner, who has a natural storyteller’s talent for enthralling readers on any topic he chooses. Some 20 years ago, Warner won a deserved Pulitzer for his transcendent book Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs, and the Chesapeake Bay. These essays have an equal understated beauty and display the same seasoned understanding of the natural world.

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-7922-7455-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: National Geographic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1999

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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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