THE MAGIC MAKER

A longtime collaborator provides an appealing portrayal of John Meredith Langstaff (1920–2005), the talented and passionate musician, charismatic performer and tireless researcher who created the combination of song, dance and drama known as The Revels.

The first Christmas Revels in Cambridge, Mass., in 1971, was an entertainment with medieval roots and a winter solstice theme grown from Langstaff’s interests in folk music and traditional dance. With his daughter Carol and other associates, he went on to develop community and seasonal celebrations of many different traditions and subjects. In nine more cities, from New England to the Puget Sound, professional and amateur musicians, children and adults, joined to offer annual performances combining mythic elements, ritual and enthusiastic audience participation. Cooper (Victory, 2006, etc.), the Newbery-winning author of The Dark Is Rising series, was a partner in many of Langstaff’s projects. Describing herself as “John's tame writer for fifteen years,” she explains that, late in life, he asked her to help him write a personal history going back to his choirboy childhood. Unfortunately, Langstaff died before they could complete their joint effort. For this “posthumous present to a friend,” she has interviewed colleagues and scoured her subject’s papers to produce a short, gracious and highly readable story of a man and an institution. Beginning with his early years in a family whose annual Christmas carol parties began before he was born, she covers his musical education, service and combat wound in World War II, teaching, performing and process of turning folksongs into children’s books. The second half of her narrative is a history of the Revels. This is a selective rather than exhaustive account, with well-chosen examples and quotations that convey the breadth and appeal of an extraordinary man. A loving remembrance and a special gift for all who have encountered Langstaff and his performances.

 

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5040-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011

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Skilled and graceful exploration of the soul of an astonishing human being.

MOUNTAINS BEYOND MOUNTAINS

Full-immersion journalist Kidder (Home Town, 1999, etc.) tries valiantly to keep up with a front-line, muddy-and-bloody general in the war against infectious disease in Haiti and elsewhere.

The author occasionally confesses to weariness in this gripping account—and why not? Paul Farmer, who has an M.D. and a Ph.D. from Harvard, appears to be almost preternaturally intelligent, productive, energetic, and devoted to his causes. So trotting alongside him up Haitian hills, through international airports and Siberian prisons and Cuban clinics, may be beyond the capacity of a mere mortal. Kidder begins with a swift account of his first meeting with Farmer in Haiti while working on a story about American soldiers, then describes his initial visit to the doctor’s clinic, where the journalist felt he’d “encountered a miracle.” Employing guile, grit, grins, and gifts from generous donors (especially Boston contractor Tom White), Farmer has created an oasis in Haiti where TB and AIDS meet their Waterloos. The doctor has an astonishing rapport with his patients and often travels by foot for hours over difficult terrain to treat them in their dwellings (“houses” would be far too grand a word). Kidder pauses to fill in Farmer’s amazing biography: his childhood in an eccentric family sounds like something from The Mosquito Coast; a love affair with Roald Dahl’s daughter ended amicably; his marriage to a Haitian anthropologist produced a daughter whom he sees infrequently thanks to his frenetic schedule. While studying at Duke and Harvard, Kidder writes, Farmer became obsessed with public health issues; even before he’d finished his degrees he was spending much of his time in Haiti establishing the clinic that would give him both immense personal satisfaction and unsurpassed credibility in the medical worlds he hopes to influence.

Skilled and graceful exploration of the soul of an astonishing human being.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2003

ISBN: 0-375-50616-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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A fun, educational book which can be enjoyed in and out of the kitchen.

MY HOUSE CHEF

: COOKING WITH LORY AND MAZEL

This highly original children’s cookbook is full of delicious and imaginative recipes, but could benefit from adding healthier and lower-fat alternative recipes.

Whether it’s a beef-filled zucchini boat riding atop a sea of blue spaghetti or fudge cars with gumdrop wheels and lollipop passengers, these fanciful recipes are sure to tempt children. Lory and Mazel are two cartoon mice who guide the reader through the book, donning various costumes according to the theme of each recipe. Children will love the mix of photos, cartoons and colorful graphics. Though many recipes include healthy ingredients, many also contain heavy cream and/or sugar, and white bread is the preferred choice over wheat. A great addition would be healthier versions of these dishes, listing the percentage of daily recommended vitamins, and number of fat and sugar grams in each. But there’s more to the book than simply recipes–a chart lists the approximate recommended serving sizes for children from ages six to 12 in clever, kid-friendly terms. For example, one serving of grain would be half a medium bagel or approximately the size of a hockey puck. Vidal explains the metric and imperial systems of measurement, and gives a lesson given on vitamins and the effect they have on our health. The author also includes a page identifying various kitchen utensils in charming illustrations. For children–and adults–who are flummoxed about proper place settings, there’s a diagram explaining the function and placement of each plate, bowl and utensil. The recipes provide illustrated step-by-step directions, pointing out techniques which may require parental help or supervision. Parents seeking a quick dinner or snack should be forewarned–many of these recipes not only require mixing food colors, but involve some complicated assembly.

A fun, educational book which can be enjoyed in and out of the kitchen.

Pub Date: June 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4389-7697-6

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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