Buy this book. Don’t buy that penguin.

Buy this book!

I wanted to write a post telling you all about this amazing book I read, written by my pal June Melby. It’s her memoir about growing up on a miniature golf course. Let that sink in for a moment, I’ll wait. No, really, her family operated Tom Thumb miniature golf in Waupaca, Wisconsin. Okay, so, I was going to tell you how well-crafted is her prose, how dash-garn funny her story. And how much I learned about the history of miniature golf, and why June no longer refers to it as “putt-putt” as she did when I first met her.

I may not have been able to keep from giving spoilers, because it’s too deliciously lovely to keep from accidentally telling about the kid sister whom “no one knew where she was except at mealtimes.” Or the aunt whose beach reading was Kirkegaard. I was going to remark on the undercurrent of family loyalty, especially the tense and tender exchanges between June and her mother Jean over the years.

Anyway, I was going to, but then some smart-aleck reviewer over Christian Science Monitor said everything better than I could have hoped to. I should probably disclose that June provided me an advanced review copy so that I could read it and tell local bookstore buyers why they should stock it. But I’d rather disclose that she sent me the saddest excuse for a toy.

When the advance reader package arrived in the mail, she included:

Grow-a-penguin

June Melby is not fucking around.

  • a mood necklace
  • dinosaur sponges in capsules, and
  • a grow-a-penguin

I know that all sounds weird, but I’m trying to tell you a story about a woman who once sent me a thousand toothpicks and a jug of glue with a note that said, “you know what know what to do” (I did not) (well, I did, but who has time for that?). A woman who once told me she really wasn’t sure if she felt like going to the Oscars – again. A darling of the Southern California spoken word scene whose delightful song-poems include titles like “Little Bonking Sound.”

A woman who needs to step up her dollar store toy game. You can clearly read the claim that it “can” grow to 600% its size. I was expecting a little pet to read along with me, to join me at the bookstores when I said, “hello, may this penguin and I speak to your buyer?” I gingerly placed it in a glass of warm water. I monitored its progress over the prescribed three days, speaking encouraging words to it, like one does with houseplants.

It stopped at about 200% its original size. It was slimy, but with a rough texture. It could not stand on its feet. It was a drunk, rotten, half-frozen rice pudding serving, if I were the type of person to freeze rotten food (I am not). I consulted the instructions: “allow the penguin to dry. Let it shrink back to original size. Re-submerge. Watch it grow again. Hours of fun!” That’s it? Stick it in water, dry it out? This is clearly not a toy intended for anyone who likes toying around with toys. I did not need to consult my new mood necklace to know I was “unsettled.”

Good thing I had a book to cheer me up.

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