cover image Breakfast at the Liberty Diner

Breakfast at the Liberty Diner

Daniel Kirk, Dorling Kindersley Publishing. Hyperion Books, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-0303-3

In Lucky's 24-Hour Garage, Kirk imagined a squeaky-clean urban gas station. Here, he revisits 1939 via a vividly recreated bustling railcar diner (Angelo, Lucky's night attendant, puts in a cameo). Patrons from all walks of life frequent the Liberty Diner, but the spotlight lands on young Mrs. Potter and her sons Bobby and baby George. Bobby wears a leg brace (""It was the first time since he'd been sick that Bobby had been away from home"") and plays with a toy plane, foreshadowing the story's main event. As the family eats breakfast and awaits the arrival of Mrs. Potter's brother, rumors fly of a campaign visit. Suddenly, President Roosevelt steps through the swinging door, flanked by reporters. The buzz of voices, clink of chrome cutlery and clatter of thick white plates are practically audible; Kirk paints from a child's-eye perspective so that the president seems larger than life, beaming and statuesque. Later, FDR stops with the boys for a photo op, telling Bobby, ""Set your sights high. I know a boy like you can do anything he puts his mind to!"" The mythic moment derives poignance from the president and boy's shared disability (""`He gets around pretty good for a guy with polio,' a man said, his mouth full of toast"" as he observes the president). Kirk's tone is unabashedly patriotic, like campaign propaganda from a bygone era. This, after all, is the ""Liberty"" Diner, a legendary slice of Americana. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)