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Book reviews for "Yudewitz,_Hyman" sorted by average review score:

Tight Times
Published in Library Binding by Bt Bound (1999)
Authors: Barbara Shook Hazen and Trina Schart Hyman
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A Very Touching Book
I cried when I read this story. That doesn't happen very often to me while reading a children's book, but Tight Times is so sweet that I was very moved. The story is about a small family doing their best to cope despite their financial troubles. The parents are worried and feel bad for their son. Seeing their child do without is so much harder on them than their own deprivation. It was gratifying that the little boy found a way to get a pet after all. The little family is filled with such a stong love that the reader knows that somehow things will turn out well for them, despite their problems. The artwork is excellent. In particular, the drawing of the mother and father hugging their son says more than words ever could. I just love this book and recommend it for any family, whether having "tight times" or not.

Transitioning Ownership in the Private Company : The ESOP Solution
Published in Paperback by Foundation for Enterprise Development (02 January, 2001)
Authors: Martin Staubus, Ron Bernstein, David Binns, Marshal Hyman, Debra Sherman, and Foundation for Enterprise Development
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For anyone involved in or considering an ESOP solution
Collaboratively written by Ron Bernstein, David Binns, Marshal Hyman, and deftly edited by Martin Staubus, Transitioning Ownership in the Private Company: The ESOP Solution examines leveraged employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) as a means of allowing employees to purchase and own a corporate divestiture or a production plant or facility chosen for closing by the parent company. Examining the tax benefits, empowerment benefits for employees, usefulness, and facilitation of ESOPs, Transitioning Ownership In The Private Company is a carefully researched, superbly presented, and thoroughly "user friendly" information guide and reference. Simply put, Transitioning Ownership In The Private Company is a "must-read" for anyone involved in or considering an ESOP solution in acquiring a private company, plant, or facility.

The Chess Garden
Published in Paperback by Riverhead Books (1996)
Authors: Brooks Hansen and Miles Hyman
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A Fascinating Read
A fairly complex plot line that blends a "reality plot" with one of fantasy. As the plot lines merge, I finally started to piece together the subtle lesson the book had been trying to teach me all along - the value of life and celebrating it in a variety of ways.

As a reader, I don't typically go for the "feel sorry for myself/the Fates are against me" storylines. I do read books that deal with serious, even sad, subject matter, but I seem to react better to those than aren't more of a pity party to which I've (mistakenly) been invited. I don't say this as a good or bad thing, only as an indication of my taste. From that indication, you might better judge my opinion of this book, which is very high, by the way.

The story begins as a reminiscence by a widow of her deceased physician husband and how they both dealt with the loss of their son. While this sounds depressing and, to use one of my strongest condemning phrases, angst-filled, it actually handles both issues in a way that left me . . . shoot, how do you describe a sad topic that doesn't leave you exactly sad? Hopeful?

So, with that in mind, I loved this book. If I can't describe the plot well, maybe I can do better with the book itself . . . it is impressive and at times, fun. It will slow at points, but hang in there. It'll be worth it in the end.

A book of whimsy, wisdom, conviction, and joy.
The Chess Garden is simply one of the best books I have ever read. The protagonist deals with many issues confronting every one: spiritual ambiguity and conviction, passionate love, tragic loss, and one's sense of place and community. The novel moves in three timelines: the doctor's growing up in Europe and courtship of his wife, his imaginary tale of Gulliverian wanderings in the mysterious land of Antipodes, and his hometown of Dayton 13 years after the doctor's famous letters from abroad. I wanted to restart it as soon as I finished it!

The most humane (and divine) novel I've ever read.
I've read "The Chess Garden" only once, four years ago. But a week rarely goes by when my heart and mind don't return to it. I don't pretend to grasp all of its themes. But as a parent, I found deep meaning in this book, wherein God's presence is revealed most fully in the love we feel for our children. And our experience of this love then allows us to turn outward to others, more completely and authentically. Mark Helprin's "Memoir from Antproof Case" touches on this theme, but not with the same power. The Doctor's spiritual quest after the death of his young son rang so emotionally true, so heartbreakingly real, that I've been unable to read it again. (Though I'm sure I will eventually) It's a sad and hopeful book. For those of us who struggle with doubt and strain to glimpse a loving, personal God, we should spend a few summer afternoons in The Chess Garden. Of course, it's only fiction. It merely points the way to what we all have access to, every day, in our real lives.

A Christmas Carol in Prose Being a Ghost Story of Christmas
Published in School & Library Binding by Holiday House (1986)
Authors: Charles Dickens and Trina S. Hyman
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The best book about The True Yule Tide Spirit I ever read!
If you have to choose the story among the Christmas stories I think you should have Ch.Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" among your finalists and many of us might find it as the final choice. Some characters of the story even expand the spheres of Christmas; in the first place we will probably mention Ebenezer Scrooge, who has inspired e.g. Walt Disney quite a lot. It might be that his feathered equivalent, even more prosperous than the (finally) good Ebenezer,is today better known than Dickens' original. One more reason to read the book! Among the rest I'll only mention "Tiny Tim", who has lent his name at least to a tasty species of minitomatoes. The author mixes cunningly facts concerning the social contrasts in 19th century England, rich owners and poor workers, with fictitious ghosts. The latter allow him to move in time, these moves are more related to personal and moral matters than to possible changes in the social frames. The social frames of the story are as well international as English, and they cover - mostly and luckily in a more lenient form - all the ages. The darkest time of the year might make it easier to believe in ghosts or at least accept easier the ones who do so? We can follow how Mr Scrooge's opinions about the members of his staff change, he realizes that he has got some duties towards the people working for him, not just rights to use their skills and time. A kind person is easy to deal with all the year around, one of the wonders of the Yule Tide is that quite a lot of the naughty ones start to behave themselves rather humanly, too. Stories like "A Christmas Carol" might not just bring the reader the right Christmas feeling, but also make some people to change their attitudes - at best not just till Boxing Day Eve but till the next Christmas!

A Christmas Carol
Well, I finally read it (instead of just watching it on the TV screen).

This is what you can call a simple idea, well told. A lonely, bitter old gaffer needs redemption, and thus is visited by three spirits who wish to give him a push in the right direction. You have then a ghost story, a timeslip adventure, and the slow defrosting of old Scrooge's soul. There are certain additions in the more famous filmed versions that help tweak the bare essentials as laid down by Dickens, but really, all the emotional impact and plot development necessary to make it believable that Scrooge is redeemable--and worth redeeming--is brilliantly cozied into place by the great novelist.

The scenes that choke me up the most are in the book; they may not be your favourites. I react very strongly to our very first look at the young Scrooge, sitting alone at school, emotionally abandoned by his father, waiting for his sister to come tell him there may be a happy Christmas. Then there are the various Cratchit scenes, but it is not so much Tiny Tim's appearances or absence that get to me--it's Bob Cratchit's dedication to his ailing son, and his various bits of small talk that either reveal how much he really listens to Tim, or else hide the pain Cratchit is feeling after we witness the family coming to grips with an empty place at the table. Scrooge as Tim's saviour is grandly set up, if only Scrooge can remember the little boy he once was, and start empathizing with the world once again. I especially like all Scrooge's minor epiphanies along his mystical journey; he stops a few times and realizes when he has said the wrong thing to Cratchit, having belittled Bob's low wages and position in life, and only later realizing that he is the miser with his bootheel on Cratchit's back. Plus, he must confront his opposite in business, Fezziwig, who treated his workers so wonderfully, and he watches as true love slips through his fingers again.

It all makes up the perfect Christmas tale, and if anyone can find happiness after having true love slip through his fingers many years ago, surprisingly, it's Scrooge. With the help of several supporting players borrowed from the horror arena, and put to splendid use here.

Heartwarming conversion of a soul
Charles Dickens writes this story in such detail that you almost believe you have just enjoyed Christmas dinner at the Cratchits home. The characters have so much depth. The made for t.v. or movie screen renditions do not truly depict what Ebenezer Scrooge witnesses with the three spirits that causes such a change in his outlook on life. Such as Scrooge's emotions being quickened by the past heartache in his childhood; seeing how his bad choices caused the hardening of his heart and how deeply it cost him in the end; seeing what could have been his to enjoy and then thinking it could still be his with the Spirit of Christmas Present only to find out the future does not hold any love or joy for him by the Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come and instead his actions leave him robbed at death and no one left to grieve for him. Read the book to hear how this story was really written. Even if you have seen every Christmas Carol movie every made, the book will offer so many gold nuggets that you will think you are hearing it for the very first time. Pictures are beautifully detailed throughout the book. Excellent!!!

The Castle in the Attic
Published in Library Binding by Bt Bound (1999)
Authors: Elizabeth Winthrop and Trina Schart Hyman
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Fantasy classic
What I would describe as early-fantasy, a book for kids who are getting into the genre. Snappy and well-paced, the book is also dotted with sweet moments that may bring a tear to the eye.

William lives in a nice suburb with his ever-busy parents (I found it sweet how he still loves and treasures his parents, despite their frequent absence) and the nanny/maid, Mrs. Phillips. William receives shattering news: Mrs. Phillips intends to return to England. As a consolation gift, she gives him a toy castle with accompanying knight, and a tiny metal charm.

Then the knight comes to life. The tiny silver man, Sir Simon, soon befriends William as the young man goes to desperate lengths to keep Mrs. Phillips. But a knight can't forget his duty, and soon William becomes entangled in the clutches of Alastor, the evil wizard. But how can a physically unimpressive ten-year-old defeat a powerful magician?

William is an enjoyable character, made more so by his anxiety over Mrs. Phillips and general decency toward his fellow man. I also enjoyed the comparisons using his gymnastics lessons as examples of self-control and discipline.

Mrs. Phillips was a lovely character, very compassionate and caring, but firm in her intentions. Alastor was pure evil, while Sir Simon was a thoroughly likeable and decent guy, without being too perfect or anything like that. I found Calender to be a rather sorry character, and was glad of the resolution written for her.

The plot is pleasantly original, though I wish less time had been spent in "our" world. The writing style is rather ordinary, the first half a bit slow, and the descriptions somewhat underfleshed. However, the simple yet effective plot and good characterization overcome those problems. Without a doubt, kids should check out this book, and also the even-better sequel "The Battle for the Castle."

So Awesome!!
Man, this book was neat. I loved it. The Castle in the Attic is a great book for people who love adventure. William is a 10 year-old boy who loves gymnastics and loves his nanny Mrs.Phillips who takes care of him. Mrs.Phillips is an elder woman and very much fun to William. One day, William finds out that Mrs.Phillips has to leave. He tries everything to stop her, but nothing works. Before she leaves, she gives William a toy castle and a silver knight that one day is supposed to come alive. When Mrs. Phillips goes to her bus stop to leave, the strangest thing happened. She never set foot past William's front walkway. Where does she end up? What adventure lies in William's hands? All I can say though is the author is trying to tell us" You don't always get what you wish for". If you read this book, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

The best book you'll ever read
I think this is great book, and if you get the time to read it, you just might find it's one of the best books you have ever read. In the beginning it is somewhat slow, but if you keep reading, the book will get a lot better and the plot will unravel. There is a little boy who gets a toy castle and a knight from his housekeeper who is moving away. After playing with the castle and the knight the kid starts to see that not everything is normal, and that his world is about to be turned upside down! I hope you read this book for I know you'll like it.

Saint George and the Dragon
Published in Paperback by Little Brown & Co (Juv Pap) (1990)
Authors: Margaret Hodges and Trina Schart Hyman
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Kevin's Review of St. George and the Dragon
I am a fan of fantasy, and this children's book delivers a great fantasy story complete with mystical objects, mystical creatures, love, and heavy conflict. The book boils down to one of the long-heard "dragon-slaying-stories". This is very well written adventure making it a wonderful fantasy short-story. The pictures are nothing short of stunning. From the frame artwork of dancing sprites, angels, and knights to the giant dragon who's glamour has trouble fitting into a single page.
This is a book where I would've given an extra half-star. While this book is great for adults to read and enjoy, its intended audience might not be able to enjoy it to its fullest. The story is complex enough to make the reader have to achieve a certain age to be able to completely understand what is going on. There also are some scenes with mild to medium bloodshed.
All in all, a great book to read, and I would highly recommend it.

Saint Geoge And The Dragon
I absolutely loved this book. The story was wonderful. At first I thought it might be too graphic for younger children, but when I read it to my 6 year old son I found out differently. He really enjoyed the story and was delighted with the pictures. We had to look at themm over and over. He even began making up his own stories using the pictures. This is a great book for children of all ages.

I love dragons
Hyman won a Caldecott Medal for this book and there is no questioning why. The wonderful drawings tell the story with splendid detail. Bordering the text are more drawings that help to establish the setting and mood of the story. The text is even more exciting than the illustrations. A brave knight is summoned by a beautiful princess to slay the dragon that has been tormenting the land of the fairy queen. After several battles and assistance from magical entities, the knight defeats his foe and is granted the princess as a prize. There can be quite a lot of text on a single page causing it to be overwhelming in its lack of white space. The narrative is fast-paced enough that the reader will stay interested though. This book should be on an independent level for high second graders. Younger children will enjoy hearing it and seeing the pictures though.

Why 5 stars?:
I simply love the mythical magic of dragons. The illustrations included in this version are gorgeous. The story can be understood and enjoyed by children of all ages. Second graders should be able to read this book with just some slight assistance.

Published in Paperback by Holiday House (1987)
Authors: Barbara Rogasky, Trina Schart Hyman, Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm, and Wilhelm Grimm
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Beautiful, haunting, enchanting
Trina Schart Hyman is one of the finest contemporary illustrators of children's books today. Anyone not aware of her exceptional talent is advised to take a look at this retelling of the Grimm's classic, "Rapunzel."

The story is in a clear, straightforward, traditional retelling by Barbara Rogasky, but Hyman's illustrations lift this version out of the average and into the sublime. The illustrations are intricately drawn and luminously colored; they have the effect of rendering the human, emotional side of the story with clarity and immediacy, while keeping intact the otherworldly quality necessary to the fairy tale.

Take, for example, Hyman's illustration of the young Rapunzel and the witch in the garden. Rapunzel gazes at her with rapt adoration, while the witch returns the look with benevolent affection. In this one illustration, we are taken beyond the realm of the archetypal cardboard figures of fiction and are shown instead the very human figures of a foster mother and daughter. This relationship continues through to the last illustration, with the solitary witch watching the happy couple depart through the forest. Despite her cruel actions, this witch is a real woman capable of feeling loss and remorse.

Perhaps I wax rhapsodic, but Hyman's gorgeous illustrations really must be seen to be believed. This is a book that can be appreciated on various levels by both young and old alike.

No other description - Gorgeous!
This past weekend, our 3-1/2 year old daughter's grandparents came into town. Her Nonna told her a bedtime story about Rapunzel, a story she had not heard before. She was enchanted. Needless to say, Nonna went out the next day to buy a book and she came home with Paul Zelinsky's beautiful book.

I can't comment on the accuracy and literary side of the book - I'm not an expert on the original tale. However, the writing is wonderful; the story is an easy read with younger children. But clearly, the illustrations are what set this book apart. Many children's books use child-like pictures - but each page of this book is a new and different work of art. Detail and texturing worthy of an art gallery make this a pleasure to view as well as read. Highly recommended.

A visually beautiful rendition of a timeless tale
"When I was a young girl, I had long braids, and always wanted to be Rapunzel," confided a colleague at a recent meeting. Paul Zelinsky's Caldecott award-winning retelling of this age-old tale of a mother-to-be's craving for the forbidden rapunzel, a possessive sorceress, a beautiful girl with an unending cascade of silky hair shut away in a remote tower, and a handsome prince just might reawaken those desires. In his informative "Note About Rapunzel ," Zelinsky relates how he drew on elements from the early French and Italian sources as well as from the better known Grimm version of this tale to create his own compelling version. Thus, some details of the story are less familiar. Rapunzel naively reveals that she has had a visitor in the tower when she asks the sorceress to help her with her dress for, "It is growing so tight around my waist, it doesn't want to fit me anymore." Other elements, retold in their familiar spare rhythm, such as "Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!" retain ther original power. Zelinsky uses the formal beauty of Renaissance art to evoke both the physical beauty of the characters and the Italian landscape. His large oil paintings overflow with softly muted colors, billowing folds of finely detailed period costumes, ornate architecture, and majestic landscapes. His masterful use of glinting and filtering light illuminates every page. Zelinsky's Rapunzel is a book to be treasured by anyone who appreciates a timeless tale and delights in an object of visual beauty.

Caddie Woodlawn
Published in Mass Market Paperback by Simon Pulse (1997)
Authors: Carol Brink and Trina Hyman
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Caddie Woodlawn
This is a story called Caddie Woodlawn. It's time period is 1864. This story is about a young girl named Caddie. She's got a big family. One day a man called "The Circuit Rider" finds out that Caddie is not being a lady and is being a tomboy so her father does a test and allows her to be a tomboy with her brothers, Tom and Warren. Later in the book people say they were in a war with the Indians so everyone got their guns and got ready. Read the story to find out what happens!

I think the author wrote this book, Caddie Woodlawn to compare a young girls life in 1864 to a young girls life in 2002, now. It also shows what jobs they had to do and how to act.

I like this story because it really shows you what they did. I also really like this story because it's very exciting and if you think some things going to happen then it wont because it's always a surprise so I kept reading because I couldn't stop.

Ode to Caddie Woodlawn
The most remarkable thing about the book Caddie Woodlawn is that it is a true story! The real-live person named Caddie Woodlawn was 82 when the book was published by her grand-daughter in 1935. By writing down the stories told to her as a child, Carol Ryrie Brink captures her grandmother's life as a girl growing up on the Wisconsin frontier in the 1860's. Caddie Woodlawn is a tomboy and likes nothing better than to go on adventures with her brothers Tom and Warren. She comes from a large pioneer family of seven children. Her older sister Clara is always acting more lady-like than she, and her younger sister Hetty is always tattling on her. Caddie has a fierce independent streak, and we discover what life was like on the frontier as we accompany her to school, and on visits to the neighboring Indian village. The book reveals the often tense relations between Native Americans and the European settlers. Because of her friendship with Indian John, Caddie alone is able to restore peace to her settlement by taking action before the frightenend white settlers attack the Indians. By the book's end, Caddie's refined cousin Annabelle comes from Boston, and Caddie the tomboy learns that maybe a few lady-like activities such as quilting aren't so bad after all. Any teen today will look up to Caddie for her self-confidence and bravery, and see their own rites of passage reflected in Caddie's experiences.

Tomboyish !!
Caddie Woodlawn comes from a family of seven children.She is a tomboy and is accepted by her brothers and her father.I like this type of girl as I am (sort of) tomboy myself.Wow! I especially like the adventures she shares with her brothers,Tom and Warren.Hetty,her sister,always tattletales on whatever happens to Caddie and her brothers.Caddie's dog,Nero, is an affectionate dog who loves Caddie the most.Caddie's Uncle Edmund wants to take Nero to his place and Caddie's mother allows him.Nero was lonely for he loves the children and escapes from Uncle Edmund.Caddie has a lot of adventures and nearly died once.I love this book.This is one of my favourite books now,I think.I was very anxious when Caddie's father asked the children to vote if they should stay at their farm and be Americans or go to England and be a lord there.I was so excited until I said my own suggestion out loud.Do you want to know more of Caddie's adventures? Read this book! I guarantee that you will rate it 6 stars.

Canterbury Tales
Published in School & Library Binding by Lothrop Lee & Shepard (1988)
Authors: Barbara Cohen and Trina Schart Hyman
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One of the major influences of modern literature.
The version of this classic I read was a translation into modern English by Nevill Coghill. As you can see above, I awarded Chaucer (and the translation) five stars; but I do have a criticism. This translation (and many other publications of Chaucer) do not contain the two prose tales ("The Tale of Melibee" and "The Parson's Tale"). These are rarely read and I understand the publisher's and the translator's desire to keep the book to a managable size. Still, that should be the readers decision and no one else's. I had to go to the University library and get a complete copy in order to read those sections. As I mentioned, this copy is a translation into modern English. However, I do recommend that readers take a look at the Middle English version, at least of the Prologue. Many years ago, when I was in high school, my teacher had the entire class memorize the first part of the Prologue in the original Middle English. Almost forty years later, I still know it. I am always stunned at how beautiful, fluid, and melodic the poetry is, even if you don't understand the words. Twenty-nine pilgrims meet in the Tabard Inn in Southwark on their way to Canterbury. The host suggests that the pilgrims tell four stories each in order to shorten the trip (the work is incomplete in that only twenty-four stories are told). The tales are linked by narrative exchanges and each tale is presented in the manner and style of the character providing the story. This book was a major influence on literature. In fact, the development of the "short story" format owes much to these tales. All of the elements needed in a successful short story are present: flow of diction and freedom from artifice, faultless technical details and lightness of touch, and a graphic style which propels the story. In poetry, Chaucer introduced into English what will become known as rime royal (seven-line stanza riming ababbcc), the eight-line stanza (riming ababbcbc), and the heroic couplet. His poetry is noted for being melodious and fluid and has influenced a great many later poets. He has a remarkable talent for imagery and description. With respect to humor, which often receives the most negative responses from a certain group of readers (as witnessed by some of the comments below), there are at least three types: good humor which produces a laugh and is unexpected and unpredictable (for example, the description of the Prioress in the Prologue), satire (for example, the Wife of Bath's confession in the Prologue to her tale), and course humor, which is always meant to keep with the salty character of the teller of the tale or with the gross character of the tale itself. I am really stunned at the comments of the reviewer from London (of June 21, 1999). He/she clearly has no idea of the influence of the work nor on the reasons why Chaucer chose to present the humor the way he has. T. Keene of May 17 gave the work only three stars, presumably because it was once banned in Lake City, Florida. (Does that mean it would get fewer stars if it hadn't been banned?) Perhaps our London reviewer will be more comfortable moving to Lake City! Another reviewer suggested that "The Canterbury Tales" was only a classic because it had been around a long time. No! Chaucer's own contemporaries (for example, Gower, Lydgate, and Hoccleve) acknowledged his genius. My goodness, even science fiction books acknowledge the Tales (for example, Dan Simmons' "Hyperion," which won the 1990 Hugo Award for best science fiction novel of the year, is based on the Tales). These brief entries are too short to review all of the tales. Let me just descibe the first two. Other readers might consider reviewing the other tales in later responses. In "The Knight's Tale," the Theban cousins Palamon and Arcite, while prisoners of the King of Athens (Theseus), fall in love with Emelyn, sister of Hippolyta and sister-in-law to Theseus. Their rivalry for Emelyn destroys their friendship. They compete for her in a tournament with different Greek gods supporting the two combatants. Arcite, supported by Mars, wins but soon dies from a fall from his horse (due to the intervention of Venus and Saturn). Both Palamon and Emelyn mourn Arcite, after which they are united. It is the basis of "The Two Noble Kinsmen" by Fletcher and Shakespeare. "The Miller's Tale" is a ribald tale about a husband, the carpenter John, who is deceived by the scholar Nicholas and the carpenter's wife Alison that a second flood is due. In this tale, a prospective lover is deceived into kissing a lady in an unusual location. And, recalling the response from our reviewer from London, apparently this Tale should not be read by people from London (or Lake City)!

Canterbury Tales can be fun to read
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer is one of the first great works of literature in the English language and are good reading for a number of reasons. They are written in "old English", however, and read like a foreign language for most of us. Barbara Cohen's adapted translation gives us four of the tales in contemporary English and therefore provides an excellent introduction to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Cohen's tales retain Chaucer's colorful insight into fourteenth century England including life as a knight, the horror of the plague, and the religous hypocrisy of the age. The illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman are vivid and tell a story all by themselves. I use Cohen's book as a supplement to teaching medieval history and literature to 7th and 8th graders.

A Must-Read
In addition to its literary importance, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales are an enchanting reading experience. The Bantam Classic edition presents the tales in Modern English translation alongside the Middle English so that one can fully appreciate the tales as Chaucer composed them, or if you're just in the mood for a fun romp you can speedily read the translation. The tales themselves move at a quick pace, so beginners will probably enjoy the modern version much more.

The Canterbury Tales revolve around a group of 29 on a pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral to pay homage to the martyred St. Thomas a'Becket. The members of the pilgrimage come from all walks of life, including a Knight, Prioress, Merchant, Miller, the ever-entertaining Wife of Bath, and many others. The Canterbury Tales are the pilgrims' stories and each one reflects the individual character's personality beautifully. One can't help but feel a part of this lively group.

Whether you like a bawdy, raucous tale or a morally sound fable you will definitely find something entertaining in this book. I laughed out loud several times and found Chaucer's use of symbolism, wit, wisdom, and the glimpse into 14th Century life absolutely fascinating.

Swan Lake
Published in Library Binding by Harcourt (1991)
Authors: Margot Fonteyn and Trina Schart Hyman
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A Mixed Review
This Rudolf Nureyev production of "Swan Lake" was first staged for the Vienna State Opera Ballet in 1964. It was made into a film in 1967, and it is now available on video. On page 225 of the biography "Perpetual Motion: The Public and Private Lives of Rudolf Nureyev" (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995), Otis Stuart describes this Nureyev production as "dense, psychologically complicated" and also as "unilaterally despised by the local critics and public." Generally speaking, I like Nureyev's dancing. I really enjoy Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn together in The Royal Ballet's "Romeo and Juliet" (1966). Nureyev's character came off very credible to me. In Nureyev's private life, I'm aware that he lived an alternate lifestyle. That would not be my choice, but it does not necessarily preclude me from enjoying a ballet that he dances in. Nevertheless, I have trouble in seeing the value behind Nureyev's outrageously effeminate portrayal of Prince Siegfried in this production. I suspect that might be a big part of why this performance did not achieve critical and public acclaim in the sixties.

There is, however, some merit to be found in Nureyev's choreography. Many of the swan formations are interesting. There is some good detail in the dancing when Prince Siegfried first meets Odette. When Odile does her famous 32 fouttes in Act III, the camera changes angles a couple of times to give you different views. I've learned not to take things like that for granted, as I've seen other quality productions who will just stay with the one view for the entire time. A libretto is provided, in case you do not already know the story. The video run time is 112 minutes, whereas a Kirov production is 144 minutes long. That means that Nureyev had to edit out some of the lessor known dances. Nureyev did not like the Joker in the Kirov version, because he felt it was not in keeping with the overall character of the ballet. So, he edited it out along with Prince Siegfried's friend Benno. He also changed the name of the evil sorcerer from von Rotbart to Redbeard.

The ballet music was written by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The score is beautiful, but the performance by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra is mediocre compared to other performances I've seen by the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra and the New York City Ballet Orchestra. Also, it is important to consider the fact that this was recorded in 1967. The recording technology back then is not what it is today.

I am afraid that many people will buy this video because of the name attraction of Fonteyn and Nureyev. Quite frankly, I think that they are making a mistake, especially if this is to be the only "Swan Lake" in their collection. If you desire to own all of the available "Swan Lake" editions, then by all means buy this one. But, remember that Dame Margot Fonteyn was born in 1919, and her technical skills in 1967 are not up to par with today's dancers. Furthermore, there are a number of dances that are not done by the principal dancers, and the Vienna corps is simply not all that great. For instance, during the dance of the four Cygnets, you can see that their heads are not in sync. I invite a comparison with The Kirov Ballet.

One good thing about this production is that the ending is more true to the actual story than a typical Kirov version. This is because the Tsar did not allow for certain types of endings in his theater. The Soviets also maintained that tradition. Nureyev was known to have despised the Kirov ending, and therefore he discarded it. His ending is also quite theatrical and involves stage props. That might not sit well with some purist types. Also, the sorcerer Redbeard is primarily an actor. He doesn't even wear ballet slippers because he doesn't dance. He just goes around appearing menacing and stirring up the swans and casting spells and such. By comparison, the Kirov version features a dancing von Rotbart. The actual name of the sorcerer, and whether he is theatrical or not, doesn't matter all that much to me. But, you can make your own decisions as to what you value in a performance, so I'm just letting you know.

Out of the five "Swan Lake" versions that I have seen (to date), my favorite is a Peter Martins after George Balanchine after Petipa & Ivanov production from the "Live From Lincoln Center" public television series. It features innovative choreography, great dancing and an absolutely stunning ending! Peter Martin's production is my idea of a five-star "Swan Lake." Unfortunately, it is not available commercially. As an alternative, I recommend the Kirov "Swan Lake" production (ASIN 6304185529 by Kultur Video) as a reasonable, quality substitute that can be purchased through In any case, please be sure to fully research the other "Swan Lake" productions available to you before buying this one. You might be disappointed by this one. I was.

Great Nureyev Vehicle
This filmed performance was styled by Nureyev, who choreographed and danced this performance - retaining and only mildly revising the traditional "white acts" choreography of Ivanovich/Petipa. Nureyev's aim was to give a lot more dancing and character to Prince Siegfried. Apart from his outrageously over-the-top makeup, Nureyev's realization of the Prince was, in addition to being the perfection of perfection, profoundly moving - the Prince can act!

But there's more. Margot Fonteyn was one of the greatest ballerinas ever. In 1961, when Nureyev famously leapt to the West, a partnership began that many have described as miraculous. Fonteyn's age was fairly transparent here. Certainly the technique maintained a high level of purity and style. Even though the roll was trimmed to accomadate the tolls of sin (Fonteyn was 47 when this was filmed!) and she probably was even more breathtaking at her peak, this performance will not dissapoint anyone but a moron.

Sadly, the corps here is remarkably weak and the orchestra [disappointing]. This is why it lost a star from me. Because the corps is so vital to this ballet, and Tchaikovsky's music so fine, you'll probably want another Swan Lake if you can only have one. The Kirov is probably the one, also on DVD. But if you're a [fan]for heart-melting beauty, you'll have to get it for Nureyev.

Contrary to what many reviewers experienced, I found this DVD to be surprisingly fresh and clear. I couldn't actually believe that it was 1966 when it was recorded. I had to double-check the notes. In fact, after seeing it once, I was certain that I had been mistaken. This looks like something from the 80s at least. But it's not.

5 Stars Nonetheless
4 Stars?

Well, when Margot Fonteyn danced, every single motion or gesture of hers was a poem of utmost beauty and she herself was the embodiment of supreme elegance. In view of the duration of her part here, she herself alone deserves 7 stars! Nureyev himself also deserves 6 stars as a dancer: there is hardly anyone either from Kirov or any other place who could seriously challenge him. The rest, especially by today's standard, are all 5 star ballerinas, and there are masses of them here.

For most ballet music, the composers tailor made their music to the requirements of the choreography. Tsaichovsky was an exception, his musical imagination was given a free hand: the original choreographist accommodated him and changed some of his part in accordance with his music. That partly explains why Tsaichovsky's Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty was such great music outshinging any other ballet music. Anyway, music and choreography in ballet should go either hand in hand or as glove befitting hand. Here lies the main drawback of this DVD: the choreography doesn't tie in well with the music and was often at odd with it! Nureyev, however great a dancer he was, didn't have good ears for music, it could also be seen from the conductor of the accompanying orchestra he preferred (?) whose treatment of Swan Lake is so out of line.

Nureyev introduced some new and novel elements in his choreography, notably the use of properties, say the roses, the bow and arrow, and the large clothes representing waves on the stage that at last engulfed the prince. He also mobilized masses of ballerinas to create various shapes, making them as scented as flowers. Even when they are only some simple geometric matrixes, they are equally spectacular especially when seen from a height.

The stage settings are great, the costumes too and there are numerous of them. Of course, viewers must bear in mind that however brilliant the photography was, it was filmed in 1968 after all. Furthermore, there are at times some makeshifts, however brief that may be, they are quite prosaic or even static: Nureyev was by then not as matured a choreographist as he later was, as could be seen from his "Sleeping Beauty with Ballet De L'opera De Paris".

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