Laurie Gwen Shapiro
Simon & Schuster
On one hand, The Stowaway unfolds the biography of Billy Gawronski, a 1928 New York high school boy. On the other, it chronicles Commander Richard Byrd’s first Antarctic expedition. Billy’s a first generation Polish-American kid who’s read everything he can on Commander Byrd and dreams of exploring Antarctica under his hero. So what would a Lower East Side teenager do but stowaway on the hero’s expedition?
The night before one of Byrd’s ships, the City of New York sets sail, Billy eases off Hoboken Pier into New York Harbor. He swims out to the ship, sneaks aboard and hides below deck, where…he finds another boy with the same idea! Billy and his “co-away” are discovered and booted off the ship.
But Billy Gawronski doesn’t quit. He dogs the City of New York from port to port, getting the boot three times before hitchhiking to California, the ship’s final port prior to heading “way south.” Confronted with Billy yet again, Byrd throws up his hands and adds the kid to the ship’s roster.
Reader, hang tough—there may be passages that read like undigested footnotes meant for history buffs. But who cares if you’re a teenage boy, right?
– Wynn Parks
The Bourbon Bible
Mitchell Beazley/Octopus Books Ltd.
Just in time for Bourbon Heritage Month (September) comes American Distilling Institute’s Eric Zandona’s Bourbon Bible. It’s a concise and, in some ways, more easily understood primer on bourbon from grain to glass. Zandona deals dispassionately with the hoary cliches of bourbon’s history, preferring to focus on how it’s made, and how to make the reader an informed connoisseur of America’s Spirit.
A big attraction is his alphabetized review of 140 bourbons, with proof, mash bill, age statement, brand owner, price range and flavor notes. Along with the standards, there are some new bottlings reviewed I’m looking forward to trying.
– Bruce Collier
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