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The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio
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Terry Ryan, the sixth of Evelyn Ryan's ten children, was a consultant on the film adaptation of The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio. She lives in San Francisco, California.

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In the 1950s, the Ryan family struggled to make ends meet. Ten kids and a father who spent most of his paycheck on booze drained the family's meager finances. But mom Evelyn Ryan, a former journalist, found an ingenious way to bring in extra income: entering contests on the backs of cereal boxes and the like. The author, Evelyn's daughter, tells the entertaining story of her childhood and her mother's contest career with humor and affection. She is not a professional narrator, but her love and admiration for her mother come through in every sentence. Evelyn won supermarket shopping sprees that put much-needed food on the table, provided washing machines and other appliances the family couldn't afford, and delivered cash to pay the mounting pile of bills. This well-told, suspenseful tale is peppered with examples of Evelyn's winning poems and slogans, taken from the years of notebooks that she saved and passed on to her daughter, and has a fiction-worthy climax that will keep listeners laughing even as they're glued to Ryan's tale. Simultaneous release with the Simon & Schuster hardcover (Forecasts, Feb. 5). (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

This is the story of Evelyn Ryan, whose brood of ten children is not fully supported by her working husband, in part because of his perpetual drinking. Her sixth child, San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist Ryan, here recounts how the family depended on her poems, jingles, and contest entries to make ends meet (and sometimes not even). When they must move, Evelyn wins $5000 for a down payment on a house; when their car breaks down, she wins a new one. In addition to her seemingly boundless flow of words is her positive outlook on life, one that her children inherited despite their subsistence on fish sticks and hand-me-down clothes. While readers will root for the family and admire Evelyn's strength and her way with words, in the end the story could have been improved with some judicious editing, especially of the repetitions of the jingles. Suitable for leisure collections. Gina Kaiser, Univ. of the Sciences in Philadelphia Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Adult/High School-While her sometimes abusive husband drank away a third of his weekly take-home pay, Evelyn Ryan kept her ever-growing family afloat by entering every contest she came across, beginning with Burma Shave roadside-sign jingles. In post-World War II America, money, appliances, food, excursions-anything you could think of-were routinely offered to the person who sent in the best jingle, essay, or poem, accompanied, of course, by the company's box-top or other product identification. Although she more often won prizes of products, such as a case of Almond Joy candy bars, Mrs. Ryan once won enough for a down payment on a house just as her family was being turned out of their two-bedroom rental house. That contest also won her a bicycle for her son. She entered so many contests, often several times under different forms of her name, that hardly a week went by without some prize being delivered by the postman. Charmingly written by one of her 10 children, this story is not only a chronicle of contesting, but also of her mother's irrepressible spirit. With a sense of humor that wouldn't quit, she found fun in whatever life sent her way, and passed that on to all her children who, despite the poverty they grew up in, lived and still live happy, useful lives. YAs who like family stories should love this winning account.-Sydney Hausrath, Kings Park Library, Burke, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Judith Stone O Magazine A good-natured memoir as compelling as a commercial jingle.
Book of the Week People Nabs first prize in the memoir genre.
The New Yorker This plucky middle American chronicle, starring an unsinkable, relentlessly resourceful mother and her Madison Avenue-style magic, succeeds on many levels -- as a tale of family spirit triumphing over penury, as a history of mid-century American consumerism, and as a memoir about a woman who was both ahead of her time and unable to escape it.

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