I'm thrilled to be spotlighting Saving the Planet & Stuff today! Author Gail Gauthier is here with a fab guest post and giveaway...
Saving the Planet & Stuff: An Eco-Comedy
by Gail Gauthier
originally published by Putnam
Michael Racine is spending a miserable summer alone at home when he stumbles upon a temporary job and housing with his grandparents’ friends, Walt Marcello and Nora Blake. Walt and Nora made names for themselves in the environmental movement with their magazine, "The Earth’s Wife," and Michael believes he’s headed for an internship with them that could rival the summer activities of his far more industrious and accomplished friends. Lack of air conditioning and biking to work get old very fast for him, though, and he has trouble taking seriously Nora’s concerns about the environmental impact of golf courses and Walt’s interest in composting toilets. He gets to leave his hosts’ solar home each weekday only to be faced with turmoil and revolt among "The Earth’s Wife"’s staff. How can Michael-or Walt and Nora-decide on the right course of action?
Writing About Food—Again And Again
A favorite scene in my eco-comedy, Savingthe Planet & Stuff, involves my sixteen-year-old main character, Michael, suffering a shock when he stumbles upon one of his employers in a restaurant. It was not the “grilled-unpopular-vegetables-and-polenta (whatever that was)-over-a-wood-fire type place” where Michael would have expected to find Walt, a long-time environmental warrior and vegetarian. The young man ends up joining the older one for a meal that ends up being a far cry from the tofu hot dogs, whole wheat noodles with undercooked zucchini, and peach nectar that they had been sharing up to that point.
Saving the Planet & Stuff is not the only book I’ve written that includes situations constructed around food. Food has turned up regularly in my writing throughout my career. I didn’t set out to make meal and snack time a recurring motif and only became aware of it after the fact. But it makes a great deal of sense that I ended up going down that road.
I come from a family that likes food. No, that’s not quite accurate. Saying we “like food” suggests that I come from a long line of discerning cooks or that maybe we maintain marvelous ethnic food traditions. To be more precise, I come from a family that likes to eat, and we have for generations. When we are preparing for a family gathering, we are far less concerned with the quality of the food we’re going to serve than we are that there be enough of it. If one of us loses a few pounds, the rest of the family worries about our health. And, quite honestly, when some of us lose weight, it often is because we’ve been sick.
I am just barely maintaining a normal BMI right now, but I can’t deny my familial interest in eating. It’s there for all the world to see in many of my children’s books, beginning with the very first, My Life Among the Aliens. That novel came out of my life as a mother of young boys, and the bran muffins and underappreciated oatmeal cookies that attract alien life forms to narrator Will’s home were based on the muffins and cookies I made for my own kids. When Will’s family does provide him with the kind of nourishment he longs for, you can be sure he comments on it. He is, after all, my creation. Before heading out to watch the Perseid showers with his parents and brother “The four of us pack up food—good stuff, too, like buttered popcorn and salty potato chips and brownies made of chocolate instead of carob…” The book’s sequel, Club Earth, features an elaborate Thanksgiving dinner, designed (and paid for) by Will and his brother Rob to rid their home of the beings from other planets who had been using it as a destination vacation spot because they actually liked Mom’s home cooking. The boys give their guests an anti-Mom meal designed around four pounds of hot dogs (“turkey gets so dry”), the candied portion of candied sweet potatoes, five frozen pizzas, four cans of cooked spaghetti to which they add frozen breakfast sausages, cheese puffs, and, as an appetizer, barbecue chips topped with spray cheese. For dessert, they have two pies they made themselves out of Twinkies.
In The Hero of Ticonderoga I offer up some ethnic cuisine, though Franco-American dishes are not the stuff of Food Channel specials. Therese LeClerc’s mother makes Therese’s favorites, poutine and tarte au sucre, to serve a young visitor. The poutine, in particular, does not go over well with Therese’s guest, Deborah Churchill. “I could see her poutine beginning to congeal—the brown gravy was beginning to form a thin skin and the melted cheese curds were thickening. Soon the best moment for eating it would have passed.
“You’re not going to leave that, are you?” I asked, horrified.”
Very quickly Therese and her mother engage in an undignified battle for Deborah’s uneaten portion of French fries and cheese curds covered with pork gravy. (I love that stuff.) Therese could have been chagrined. Instead, she looks forward to eating leftovers from the meal after she’s finally rid of Deborah.
Even my books like A Year With Butch and Spike and Happy Kid!, which are set primarily in schools, have lunch room and family meal scenes. And my first published short story for adults, Rosemary and Olive Oil, begins in a hospital cafeteria and deals with an epiphany experienced while eating a bag of rosemary and olive oil flavored potato chips.
No one in my family would be at all surprised to have something like that happen.
Gail Gauthier is the author of eight children's books, including The Hero of Ticonderoga, an ALA Notable Book, and the two volumes of the Hannah and Brandon Stories series, A Girl, a Boy, and a Monster Cat, and A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers, which were both selected as Junior Library Guild offerings. Her books have been nominated for readers' choice awards in six states, and published in foreign editions in Italy, Germany, France, and Japan. She has spoken in schools in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont, as well as at professional conferences. She maintains the weblogOriginal Content, where she writes about children's literature, writing, self-publishing, and time management for writers.
Win an ebook copy of Saving the Planet & Stuff!
Gail has generously offered one ebook copy of her book to one lucky winner.
-Open INT (to anyone who can receive ebooks)
-will end 7/31
-must be 13+, one main./free entry per person
-winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
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