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Books in Brief


Just Perfect, written and illustrated by Jane Marinsky; David R. Godine, $16.95.

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Buffalo artist Jane Marinsky made what Publisher's Weekly called a "standout" debut with "The Goat-Faced Girl." In her new picture book, she combines two well-trod subjects – wanting a new pet and welcoming a new baby – into one sweet and imaginative story, elevating it to another plane with her whimsical, beautiful paintings. Children will delight at the playful approach: "Walking the turtle took forever" is accompanied by an illustration of Dad and his little boy, trailed by a giant red leash with the turtle far back on a country road that weaves through a Gaugin-like riot of plant life. On another page, the boy searches for a chameleon that perfectly blends into the couch pattern. For "The dolphin needed too much water," a living room becomes an oceanscape with Mom sporting goggles and a scuba breathing tube and even the teddy bear wearing flippers and a life preserver. Particularly delightful is the octopus, who "made a mess of everything." A bright orange giant octopus, its tentacles waving and stirring what might be chocolate pudding, wreaks havoc in the kitchen – milk spilled, eggs broken, a pot boiling over, the sink overflowing. For "the porcupine was hard to hug," both boy and teddy bear are sporting Band-aids. Right down to the charming ending, this book is a delight, "Just Perfect" in every way.

– Jean Westmoore


Churchill: The Power of Words selected and edited by Martin Gilbert; DaCapo Press, ?486 pages ($30)

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British historian and Churchill specialist Sir Martin Gilbert has put together a collection of the speeches and writings of the man many consider the most articulate statesman of the 20th century.

Winston Churchill's speeches, usually excerpted in this treatment, sing in a way English language statesmen and politicians have tried unsuccessfully to match ever since.

This volume has them all, and in chronological order, often with brief lead-ins to supply context, so it can be read as a history of the British Empire during the first half of the 20th century, or used as an anthology of Churchillian quotations.

Lest we forget, here are a few. At the start of World War II: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, sweat and tears"; or at the climax of the Battle of Britain: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few"; or in Fulton, Mo., on the threat of Soviet Communism: "From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an Iron Curtain has descended across the continent."

Kudos to Sir Gilbert for the service he has performed in packing the best of Churchill into one comprehensible volume.

– Edward Cuddihy


Freud's Sister: a Novel ?by Goce Smilevski; Penguin, ?272 pages ($16 paperback)

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"Freud's Sister," winner of the 2010 European Union Prize for Literature, imagines the life of Adolfina, one of Sigmund Freud's four sisters who died in concentration camps.

It begins with a scene in which she begs Freud, who was getting ready to escape Vienna and go into exile in London, to get her and the other sisters out of Austria, but her plea falls on deaf ears. Did Freud abandon his elderly sisters in real life, too? According to Peter Gay's 1988 biography, he did not. Freud gave them money, and asked a French princess to see if she could get them out of the country.

The novel is written from the point of view of Adolfina, about whom almost nothing factual is known. In Smilevski's imagination, Adolfina comes across as an erudite thinker. Her musings about madness, patriarchy, Judaism and Freud's writings are a pleasure to read. There is great depth in this novel. Its poetic prose shines through even in this English translation.

– Associated Press