Wishin’ and Hopin’
Harper, Nov 2 2010, $13.99
Looking back over years to In December 1964 when Cassius Clay and the Beatles were kings, Felix Funicello, whose family’s claim to fame is being a third cousin to Mickey’s Annette, attended the St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parochial School in Connecticut. A fifth grader at the time, he, with the help of twice left back Lonny Flood, caused the meltdown (back then we said nervous breakdown) of their teacher Sisters Dymphna. At the time Felix, the smallest child in the fifth grade was going on Ronald Reagan’s TV show Ranger Andy as a Junior Midshipmen and his mom was participating in the TV Pillsbury Bake Off show.
The school is doing a Christmas play production while the newest student is Russian tomboy Zhenya Kabakova who competed with the boys in their sports like dodgeball and "bezbull." All the students assumed she is a Soviet spy. Felix who was ranked as the second best student knew he could never catch the #1 Rosalie Twerski because she worked the teachers. When his mom melted down on TV frightening the host Reagan, Felix vows to save the family honor. Looking like the comic strip character Dondi, he goes on Ranger Andy and tells a dirty joke that turns Reagan’s face red. However, it is the shenanigans involving the Christmas play that will go down in parochial school infamy.
This humorous hysterical historical tale targets two prime groups though other readers will appreciate the pranks too. Young adults will root for the feisty almost famous Felix and nostalgic boomers like me (elementary school student at the time) who know Annette by her first name and remember the Louisville Lip before he became Ali. Wally Lamb provides an engaging look at 1964, a pivotal year in American culture with the British invasion and our first environmentally conscious politician Lady Bird beautifying America. This is a winner.