This was an Oaklyn book discussion selection this month, so there are plenty of copies, even though it was originally published in 1937. The group member who had suggested it brought in a hardcover copy printed during WWII that still had the price sticker on it - $1.37.
Leonard Ross is a pseudonym. The author's real name is Leo Rosten. He immigrated from Poland as a two-year-old child and grew up on the south side of Chicago, eventually getting his PhD in Political Science from the University of Chicago. While working on his degree, he taught English as a second language in night school and ran into an immigrant who was the inspiration for the character Hyman Kaplan.
Rosten starting writing short stories about this Yiddish immigrant with an indominable spirit, who plunged right into the English language with lots of creativity but outrageously incorrect spelling and grammar. He submitted them to the "New Yorker" magazine using a pseudonym because he was fearful that his professors would disdain such pedestrian efforts. However, the stories were a resounding success, and when he revealed himself as the author, he actually went up a notch in their estimation. The stories were eventually collected in two volumes, with this the first.
Interesting Leo Rosten trivia:
* One of his classmates at U of Chicago was Milton Friedman and he studied under Harold Laski at the London School of Economics
* During WWII he was deputy director of war information
* Most of his novels were adapted to movies, including 1963's CAPTAIN NEWMAN, MD which starred Gregory Peck, Angie Dickinson, Eddie Albert, Tony Curtis, Bobby Darin, and Robert Duvall -- what a lineup -- has anyone seen it? -- we don't own it and it's not available on Midwest Tape but it's a classic!
* He is the person who actually said about W. C. Fields, "Any man who hates dogs and babies can't be all bad" - a quotation routinely attributed to Fields himself.
* English comic author Evelyn Waugh thought Hyman Kaplan a character "worthy of Dickens."
I read this in the staff room in breaks and at lunch and actually giggled my way through it. By the way, the stars are in the title because Hyman Kaplan always spelled out his name in crayon using different colors and stars between each letter.