The Monday Book comes from guest author Dave Tabler this week, author of a new book about the state of Delaware.

What are my three biggest influences as a writer of history? Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Paul Harvey’s “Rest of the Story” radio show, and my 8th grade geography teacher, Mr. Jarboe. Ripley’s, because Robert Ripley was able to boil down the essence of a historical item into one cartoon panel visual; Paul Harvey because of his ability to lead the listener right up to the cliffhanger, leave them gasping for air during the commercial break, and then resolve the rest of the story very neatly in a minute or two. And Mr. Jarboe, because he used the clever hat trick of telling the story of famous people through their teenage eyes. Which of course appeals endlessly to 8th graders! I wanted to create a history book that has the stunning glossiness of National Geographic photography, coupled with event driven narrative that gallops along in ‘you are there’ first person. I wanted to work in an overall style that seduces the reader with a sense of just how familiar the lives of those from long ago feel once you get past the funny speech and the strange clothing. I’m not a Delaware native, and I’ve only lived here for 12 years. But the advantage of seeing this place as an outsider is that I notice things locals take for granted. How fascinating that “the penman of the American Revolution,” a close friend of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, hailed from Dover! That Delaware’s early history is in fact the nation’s early history in miniature! In “Delaware Before the Railroads,” I’ve avoided footnotes and a professorial tone. I want my reader to feel that history is not reserved for ivory towers and dusty bookshelves, that history is a living thing that informs who we are and how we got here, and told right, can help guide us toward how we might develop next as a culture

The Monday Book: A CHANCE IN THE WORLD by Steve Pemberton

Janelle Bailey comes through once again, folks, as yours truly wrests with an index and a deadline for final edits to the latest book. Look for MASKS MISINFORMATION AND MAKING DO out from Ohio University press next month. Meanwhile, please enjoy Janelle’s review of the non-fiction work A Chance in the World: An Orphan Boy, a Mysterious Past, and How He Found a Place Called Home by Steve Pemberton.

This is a wonderfully written and TRUE story of hope and love and family as told by one who had to work so much of his life to find those basic needs met in his own life. Steve Klakowicz was orphaned at a very young age and sent into the foster care system to two families–one short-term and then one very long-term–who did not truly “care” for him as they were charged or as he needed.

Thank goodness for others in his life–teachers, neighbors, kind strangers–he never stopped believing in the value of his own life or believed those families’ assertions that his life mattered not at all. Of course I am especially pleased with Mrs. Levin giving him early on the gift of books and the love of reading, of seeing him and believing in him all along, while not even knowing until much, much–years and years–later (after this book was written and published) how significant her impact on Steve Pemberton’s life.

Pemberton’s quest throughout much of the book to put together his own life story, fill in the gaps of his parents and family is heart-wrenching but completely heart-warming at the same time, as he truly had built a life for himself despite what others who should have never did for him. Somehow he gained faith and hope and love and compassion while never having had it modeled well for him. He could have become angry, bitter, distant…and instead became the best father his three children could have ever hoped for. At age 6, his eldest son asks him, “When you were a little boy, did you have a daddy?” And it seems that that might be the start of THIS story, rather than its end, for while Pemberton did not, ever, have a daddy as a young boy, he became a tremendous one. And while none of the men who stepped in when Pemberton needed them to were his “daddy” but moreso “fathers” when he absolutely needed one, Pemberton figured out what a good daddy would do and be…and has been that for his children.

This is just my first read of this book, and I am very excited to be taking the reading of it “on the road” with a community book study, as it is our high school’s “one book, one school” read these next couple of months, and I am excited to bring Pemberton’s story into the hearts and minds of others who will gain from learning about him.