These are the books I'm talking about on Fox 6 this May. I'll be on Good Day Alabama the first Tuesday and the first Saturday. There's a the real story of Cinco de Mayo, a summer-ready garden book, historical fiction, a new way to eat and the dirt on earthworms. May you truly enjoy this month’s picks!
May 5, 1862: A Story of Cinco de Mayo (Pine Ivy Books) by Jim Noles
This chapter book for very young readers is by Birmingham attorney and writer Jim Noles with illustrations by Mountain Brook High School senior Brinkley Edge. It is a fictionalized story of a real battle between France and Mexico: the Battle of Puebla. On that day a brave but outnumbered Mexican army defeated the French army. The battle cost hundreds of lives, nearly 100 Mexican soldiers and nearly 500 French fighters.
One Writer’s Garden: Eudora Welty’s Home Place (Random House) by Susan Haltom
One Writer’s Garden was written by garden designer Susan Haltom (who actually restored the Welty garden) and landscape historian Jane Roy Brown. It’s a beautiful book with photographs by Langdon Clay, whose work appears in museums and private collections all over the world.
Welty, of course, is known for weaving Southern flora into her writing. But not many people know that the abundant references to flowers and gardens in Welty’s work come from hands-on experience digging in the dirt. Much of her knowledge grew from time spent in her mother’s garden.
NOTE: Haltom will share the story of the book and her ongoing preservation of the Welty garden when she comes to Birmingham on May 10. She will lecture beginning at 2 that afternoon at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Admission is $5 per person, and there will be copies of the book available for purchase. Or you can go to the Garden Party that follows and get a book and more. The party is from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at the home of Tom and Cathy Adams on Aberdeen Road. Tickets are $50 per person and include food, beverages and a copy of the book. Again, both events benefit The Literacy Council, and it occurs to me that a ticket would be a great Mother’s Day gift.
Remarkable Creatures (Penguin) by Tracy Chevalier
In 1810, a brother and sister found a fossilized skull of an unknown animal in the cliffs off the southern coast of England. Mary Anning was that girl, and, by age 12, she had discovered the first complete specimen of an ichthyosaur. Bestselling historical novelist Tracy Chevalier tells her story, and it’s not only a story of scientific discovery, it’s also about how Mary’s discoveries challenged the accepted notions of the world and how it was created. Class differences play a big role here as Mary finds herself ostracized for her eccentric habits, and, for friendship, she turns to Elizabeth Philpot, an upper-class spinster and recent exile from London who shares Mary’s fascination with finding old things on the beach. Readers will consider issues of gender, too, as Mary’s unique talent for finding these remarkable creatures puts her in close contact (but always at a remove) with the male-dominated, middle- and upper-class scientific community. Chevalier says she first found out about Mary when she took her son to a small dinosaur museum in Dorchester. She writes: “(Mary) was prickly and independent and eccentric. Plus, she was struck by lightening as a baby and survived. Discovering her felt like my own jolt of lightening, and I knew I had to write about her.”
Taste What You’re Missing (Free Press) by Barb Stuckey
In what she calls “the passionate eater’s guide to why food tastes good,” Barb Stuckey explains how all of us can get more enjoyment from what we eat. She looks at the anatomy of taste—what’s going on in your nose, mouth and mind when you eat. Did you know that food tastes less salty and less sweet with loud noise in the background? (That’s one of the explanations for awful airline food.) Also, taste inclinations can be inherited. Stuckey says that the most important thing she learned while writing this book is that “... we Americans don’t appreciate the flavor of food.” She says we need to integrate taste appreciation into our school systems and in the way we raise our children. “Taste appreciation,” she says, “will help you be a better eater, as well as help you eat better.” And that, of course, has countless implications these days.
The Earth Moved (Algonquin) by Amy Stewart
The author of Wicked Plants and Wicked Bugs has moved on to earthworms—just in time for all that summer gardening! With the same attention to detail and things you probably don’t already know, she takes readers on an underground journey to meet the humble, yet vitally important, earthworm. Spineless, deaf and blind, the earthworm has profound effects on our ecosystem, destroying plant diseases, plowing the earth and more. Plus, earthworms survived two mass extinctions, including the one that took out the dinosaurs! Inspired by Charles Darwin, who also had a high regard for the lowly earthworm, Stewart writes with humor, intelligence and a great deal of enthusiasm. The Earth Moved will move you in ways you don’t expect. You’ll certainly look at this most unassuming creature in a whole new way.