Staff Picks: Books
Staff-recommended reading from the
In 2011, Zach Wahls’ speech to the Iowa House Judiciary Committee was posted online and went viral, where it gleaned over 17 million hits on YouTube. For those who’d like to hear more from this promising young activist, you can read his book, My Two Moms: Lessons of Love, Strength and What Makes a Family.
Wahls, an Eagle Scout, was raised -- in a home steeped in family values, discussing morals at the dinner table—by two moms. In his book, Wahls breaks down the Boy Scout motto, law, oath and slogan, giving concrete examples of how his family exemplified values in each of those codes and what he learned from the Boy Scouts about living out those values. He also gives a moving account of his mother, Terry’s, struggle with MS, and how her illness and triumphs over her condition impacted the whole family. In general, we see a family sharing love and struggles, as all families do. This family’s parents ultimately earned the legal right to marry in their home state, partly due to Zach Wahls’ inspiring speech on the Iowa legislative floor.
The library has other materials by, and/or for, children of gay or lesbian parents, and their parents. If you don’t find what you are looking for, please ask!
My Two Moms: Lessons of Love, Strength and What Makes a Family
With fuzzy memories of the film version of the original book by Ian Fleming, and having read and enjoyed some other titles by Frank Cottrell Boyce, I was excited to hear about the new book based on the eponymous magical flying car. In Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again, Chitty is manifested in a 1966 camper van purchased by Mum, beautifully restored by recently unemployed Dad and son Jem. The Tooting family also includes older sister Lucy and Little Harry, both important characters in the plot.
I really enjoyed Boyce's new book and so I went back to Fleming's original and the movie musical version. They're both so much fun in their own special ways. This new installment in the Chitty franchise is as different from the 1968 Albert R. Broccoli movie adaptation as that movie was from Ian Fleming's original. They all take off from the real-life legend of Count Zborowski's 1920 custom built chain-drive super-fast race car in one way or another, however. And while Fleming didn't live to see the MGM film production or the publication of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, his only title written for children, Fleming clearly had a great imagination beyond Bond. You can enjoy them all at KPL. I think I can safely say that I Geek Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again
Desert Flower is a true story of a young woman’s journey from the Somali desert to the cat walk in New York City. I think most of us would assume this story is about a past practice and we would like to think that what happened to Waris would no longer happen to young women in any country, but we need to be aware that the archaic customs of the past are still very much a plague to the young women of Somalia. The purpose of Waris Dirie’s book Desert Flower was to raise a loud cry to violence, genital mutilation, and arranged marriages. For a few goats and camels elderly men can arrange a marriage to prepubescent girls. Waris felt that she needed to do something to stop the useless suffering of the young women of her country. Waris’ book tells of a little girl trapped as a Desert Nomad, a daughter to be bartered and a strikingly beautiful model. In the movie Liya Kebede does a beautiful job of taking us on Waris’ journey and helping us to see the turbulence a past practice causes.
Toast, the movie is based on Toast: The Story of a Boy’s Hunger, a memoir penned by Nigel Slater, a famous British food writer, journalist and broadcaster. This film originally appeared in limited distribution in 2011 with little fanfare or notice. It basically came and went, but not before eliciting positive reviews from The New Yorker, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times among others. It’s short stint in theatres resulted in its being released to DVD very quickly; a benefit to all fine movie fans.
It’s a bittersweet, sometimes comic story of Nigel’s childhood. He is portrayed as a young child by Oscar Kennedy and later as a teen by Freddie Highmore. Nigel is somewhat of a square-peg-in-a-round-hole-world sort of youth who is seriously obsessed with food and cooking. Unfortunately for him, his family happens to be acutely cuisine challenged. Mum may be saintly and loving, but her piece de resistance dish is a finely grilled piece of white bread toast. Standard evening fare at the Slater household consists of canned offerings that are prepared by boiling the unopened tins in water to heat up the contents. Nigel finds these culinary practices to be quite appalling and constantly begs, cajoles and eggs his mother on to show him how to cook properly, i.e. from scratch. While his mother tries to accommodate his wishes, she ultimately cannot, succumbing to a serious asthma condition. After her death, his rather intolerable and grouchy businessman father, played by Ken Stott, hires Mrs. Potter as the family’s cleaning lady and cook. Soon dad’s passions are inflamed and Nigel is aghast as he openly woos the housekeeper.
Following a rather speedy, and a somewhat surreptitious courtship (Mrs. Potter happens to be inconveniently married to Mr. Potter at the time), a wedding takes place. In the aftermath, the visibly more exuberant and cheerful father chooses to move the frail, newly minted family unit to a quiet countryside locale. Nigel despises the chain smoking Mrs. Potter, (played brilliantly by the versatile Helena Bonham Carter), despite the fact that she turns out very good meals, which everyone knows is a sure way to a man’s heart. And that’s where the problem lies as both Nigel and Mrs. Potter compete for Nigel’s dad’s affections by bettering each other in the cooking department. Mrs. Potter has a slight edge, but because of this she also tends to overfeed her new hubby, and this ultimately leads to his untimely demise. Nigel finally leaves this less than idyllic country setting and finds work as a chef’s assistant at London’s posh Savoy Hotel. He also stubbornly pledges to never see or speak to Mrs. Potter again; a promise he supposedly keeps.
With Dusty Springfield’s husky voice and music as a backdrop to the action, this movie is quite a little gem. It was directed by S.J. Clarkson and is highly recommended for gourmands, as well as connoisseurs of coming of age stories and all British movie buffs.
Note: The Kalamazoo Public Library only carries Nigel Slater’s memoir in book form as of the time of this writing. The movie DVD will be made part of the collection shortly.
Toast: The Story of a Boy’s Hunger