These are the books I took to WBRC Fox 6 in February. Timely page turners include a picture book to celebrate Black History Month (and our state), a novel about words, another about food and a survival guide that will make a great guy gift.
The Slave Who Went to Congress, by Marti Rosner and Frye Gaillard with illustrations by Jordana Haggard, is a timely way to celebrate Black History Month and the bicentennial of our state. This picture book celebrates the remarkable story of Benjamin Turner, who spent the first 40 years of his life as a slave in Selma before being elected to the U.S. Congress in 1870. Turner, who taught himself to read, was the first black Congressman from Alabama and among the very first in the House of Representatives after Emancipation. An amazing man of strength, determination and compassion, he rejected the idea of punishing his white neighbors who had fought for the Confederacy, and he supported racially mixed schools and the right to vote for former slaves. Turner also argued that land should be set aside for former slaves so they could create new lives for themselves. Written in the first person and beautifully illustrated, this book for young readers makes Benjamin Turner’s story come alive.
The Grammarians by Cathleen Schine is about Laurel and Daphne Wolfe, identical and inseparable twins who love words. As toddlers, they had their own twin speak; as adults, they make their livings with words. But their shared love (and obsession) of words is driving them apart. Daphne, a grammar columnist, is devoted to preserving the elegance—and rules—of Standard English. Laurel, a poet, approaches language in a decidedly less-structured way. Their differences take a really bad turn when they begin to fight over custody of their prized, shared family heirloom—Merriam Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition. This super-smart novel is a fun and enjoyable celebration of language as well as an exploration of self. It has a great bookgroup guide, too.
The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones is a story of friendship, self-discovery, love and food. Lots of really good food. Widowed American food writer Maggie McElroy learns of a paternity claim against her late husband’s estate and heads to Beijing to sort it all out. It’s a working trip—her magazine editor asks for a profile on rising culinary star Sam Liang. Turns out, Sam is the grandson of a chef who cooked for the Emperor and in 1925 wrote The Last Chinese Chef, which became a food classic. In China, Maggie finds out more about her husband than she expected, of course. But, with Sam as her guide, she also discovers more than she expected about a cuisine rooted in centuries of history. It’s this discovery that’s most transforming for Maggie who finds herself easily drawn into Sam’s delicious world—especially its family of cooks and customers.
While looking for a Valentine’s Day gift for my guy, I was reminded of How to Stay Alive in the Woods by Bradford Angier. It’s already in our home library, so my gift search continues. Your search might stop here. This is a fun and informative 320-page book is full of practical advice for “roughing it” in the woods, where, as the author says, “every necessity is free.” Of course, it’s important to know what you need and don’t need. In these pages, you’ll learn how to build a shelter, how to make a soup hole (in the ground), how to fish with your bare hands, how to make a fire with just a spark, how and when to steal food from a bear, how to signal for help and what kind of plants you can (and can’t) eat. Or how to play it safer: Avoid mushrooms altogether; the risks outweigh the gain. A few quick takeaways: Ice is never safe. Wolves are not to be feared. Spruce-needle tea has as much vitamin C as fresh orange juice. All birds are edible.
I link to Amazon to show you exactly what book I’m talking about, but I love to shop locally at Church Street Coffee and Books, The Alabama Booksmith, Little Professor Book Center, and I often visit my local library.