I have let others- one in particular- tell my story for far too long. Now is the time to set the record straight, to sort out the humbug from the truth, and vice versa.
This portrait of “little person” Mercy Lavinia Warren Bump Stratton Magri, aka general Mrs. Tom Thumb, has depth and pathos, while immersing the reader in United States history. Vinnie is 2 feet 10 inches tall, a pituitary dwarf who is not content to stay at home in Middleborough, Massachusetts with her farming family. Recruited by an unprincipled carnival boss, Colonel Wood, she eventually winds up working with the fascinating P. T. Barnum, marrying General Tom Thumb, traveling the world, meeting royalty, and losing her beloved sister in a harrowing childbirth death scene. What elevates this title from a laundry list of interesting life events is Benjamin’s extraordinarily full character development. Vinnie is brilliant, determined, ruthless, loving, and fiercely protective of her little sister. P. T. Barnum is the ultimate showman, but he is also a man seeking an intellectual equal, and he finds that in Vinnie. Benjamin inserts newspaper articles, ads from magazines and other primary source documents in a series of “intermissions”, which take the reader deeper into Vinnie’s world. Meticulously researched, with an extensive bibliography, Benjamin has developed the facts of Vinnie’s life into a heartfelt, fascinating story.
Check the BPL catalog for this title: The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb
I am not a glutton.
I am an explorer of food.
- Erma Bombeck
Sometimes a book is riveting despite one’s initial reaction of distaste. This was true for me in reading Freeman’s New York City-centric “round the world via restaurant” guide. “What a know-it-all! How pretentious! She’s never eating dinner at my house!” I said. And yet, I kept reading, as Freeman discussed British, Chinese, Cuban, French, Greek, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Spanish, Thai and Vietnamese cuisines, with descriptions of the cuisine overall, highlights of popular and “don’t miss” items and short reviews of NYC restaurants serving that cuisine. It made me hungry. It made me want to cook. It made me want to explore cuisines I didn’t know that well, or try unusual dishes within cuisines I thought I did know well. Although there are no recipes, the library has an excellent selection of cookbooks for all the cuisines mentioned- so read Freeman first, grab a cookbook and try it at home, if you can’t afford a trip to New York.
Check the BPL catalog for this title: Try This
I didn’t like Wuthering Heights at first, but the minute that specter, Cathy, scrabbled her bony fingers on the window glass- I was grasped by the throat and not let go.
The story is on the surface rather pedestrian and predictable. In postwar Britain, a young writer finishing the book tour for her highly successful account of life in wartime London searches for a new topic for her next book, while being courted by a dashing, wealthy American. Enter a letter from a young farmer on the isle of Guernsey with a taste for Charles Lamb, and so begins her fascination with the plucky Guernsey folk who weathered the German occupation with courage and wit. Although it’s quite clear who our heroine will end up with, the journey to that satisfying conclusion is delightful, peopled with eccentric pig farmers, gay publishers, outspoken herbalists and the fierce 4 year old illegitimate daughter of a German medical officer and the book’s never-met but ever-present center, Elizabeth. Honestly, if I’d been reading it as a book, I would have put it down. But because of the multiple excellent readers, I couldn’t wait for an opportunity to drive so I could continue the story. Here is a case where good readers made all the difference in the world. The construction of the book, it consists entirely of letters between the many characters, lends itself to multiple readers one of whom is the fabulous English actress Juliet Mills.Themes of compassion, tolerance and global connections make this a true feel-good book but manage to avoid icky-sticky saccharine oversimplification of human nature. But the most delightful thing for me was how much all the characters were moved by the books they read, from Charles Lamb to Emily Bronte! It’s really about the joy of reading- or in this case of being read to.
Check the BPL catalog for this title: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society