Jean Lee Latham Margaret Sherwood Libby - Essay

Margaret Sherwood Libby

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

["Man of the Monitor" is] more alluring to the average 12-year-old than the more sober narrative of Constance Buell Burnett, "Captain John Ericsson." Having attracted the young readers Miss Latham, like a competent craftsman, tries to hold their interest by squeezing as much excitement as possible out of the many frustrations of her hero's life. She is less successful in this than in her ["Carry On, Mr. Bowditch" or even "This Dear-Bought Land"]. Perhaps this is because all her characters talk alike, in a pleasantly ordinary modern speech. Whatever the reason, a less vivid picture of the ever-optimistic inventor of the "Monitor" is given here than in Mrs. Burnett's book…. (p. 9)

Margaret Sherwood Libby, in New York Herald Tribune Books (© I.H.T. Corporation; reprinted by permission), July 1, 1962.

[Retreat to Glory: The Story of Sam Houston] is probably intended as a biography cum fictionalized dialogue of Houston. However, since the dramatization is heavy, and the historical details have been played up according to their effectiveness with respect to the total narrative, the book's value is as an exciting adventure based on actual events. The most vivid part of the book occurs during Houston's leadership of the rebel armies against Mexico. The vastness of Texas and the complexity of varying events throughout the state is made quite clear. This is an outstandingly realistic portrayal of a war. Houston's oft repeated battlecry, when it comes, is strong and fresh in its impact. The opening of the book, which deals with young Sam as a mischievous little boy, seems rather foolish, but once it reaches the time in his adolescence when he joined an Indian tribe it becomes a compelling drama of a hero who seems more than human. The book continues through Houston's career as Governor and U.S. Senator…. It is an exciting pageant dealing with a great man, born to be a legend. (p. 318)

Virginia Kirkus' Service (copyright © 1965 Virginia Kirkus' Service, Inc.), March 15, 1965.