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The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

Author:  Terry Ryan

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Catholic Reviews of Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

Overall Rating: This item received 3 stars overall. (10/31/2009)
Orthodoxy: Mostly adheres to Church teachings.
Reading Level: Easy
Synopsis: Enjoyable read
From The Cover

A Review from Publishers Weekly
"Married to a man with violent tendencies and a severe drinking problem, Evelyn Ryan managed to keep her 10 children fed and housed during the 1950s and '60s by entering--and winning--contests for rhymed jingles and advertising slogans of 25-words-or-less. This engaging and quick-witted biography written by daughter Terry (the writing half of T.O. Sylvester, a long running cartoon in the San Francisco Chronicle) relates how Evelyn submitted multiple entries, under various names, for contests sponsored by Dial soap, Lipton soup, Paper Mate pens, Kleenex Tissues and any number of other manufacturers, and won a wild assortment of prizes, including toasters, bikes, basketballs, and all-you-can-grab supermarket shopping sprees. Sometimes she even hit the jackpot, as when a Beech Nut jingle contest netted a Triumph TR3 sports car, a jukebox, a trip to New York and an appearance on the Merv Griffin show. But the Ryans' means were so limited that even a $25 prize was an economic boon. Between contests, Ryan provides dry-eyed glimpses of her father's violence, family medical emergencies and the crushing poverty of everyday life, showcasing the resilience of a mother who, despite her own problems, spurned television's Queen for a Day for making victims of its contestants. The result is a quirky, heartwarming celebration of one woman's resourcefulness, and of the wacky enticements of 1950s consumer culture."

A Review from School Library Journal
"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."

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