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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 215

Raskin began her career as a designer and illustrator, and she portrays reality both in pictures and in words. Many critics would say that Figgs & Phantoms is the best of her humorous and clever "puzzle novels." Raskin uses "black humor" in her novels, a kind of humor based upon the sad side of human nature and human reality. There is a long tradition of black humor in young adult literature, where it has surfaced in such famous works as Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. Because black humor presents an uncompromising and irreverent view of life, however, critics have sometimes deemed it harmful to young people.

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Raskin's success in the 1970s, both with picture books and with novels, brought a toughness, a wit, and a sophistication that significantly broadened the scope of children's literature. Although Raskin's heroines have their share of troubles, the people they meet and the things they do are remarkable and often hilarious. Each character must secure her own happiness—and often the happiness of other people—by her own efforts. Each must solve a puzzle-mystery by discovering how to see things in her life properly. Readers can count on a happy ending, but it will be a happy ending that does not compromise the honest vision that the heroine has developed.

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