Show me the books he loves and I shall know the man far better than through mortal friends - Silas Weir MitchellWhen Frank agreed to be one of my Inside Readers, he was not yet the winner of the Lambda Literary Award for the Best Gay Romance, so it's a very lucky chance for us to have him now, he is now in the stardoom ;-) Joke aside, Frank is a very kind and funny man, we exchanged some emails and I always found him someone nice to talk with. I also know (inside trader news...), that he has some very exciting projects regarding his two novels, Band Fags! and Drama Queers!, so I think we will have him again soon featured in this journal, maybe in another of my serials (and no, I can't say more now, unless Frank doesn't want to share...). So please, welcome Frank as Inside Reader, and wish him plenty of luck for other future projects.
Frank Anthony Polito's Inside Reader List
Thanks for this opportunity to share my favorite books! I’ve always been a reader, and often brag of my ability to do so at a 9th grade level when I was six years old (at least this is what my teacher at Longfellow School, Miss Langtry, told my mother). When asked to compile this list, I knew for sure what title would top as my all-time fave. But what about the others? It didn’t take long, after a quick look at the myriad of books lining mine and my partner’s shelves, to come up with the other nine. Now the question is: why? Perhaps you will sense a pattern with the exception of a few. It’s no wonder the next novel I’m writing is a true Y/A.
In order of when they were read…
1) The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner — One of the first books I ever checked out of the Hazel Park Memorial Library, my mother spoke highly of it as being one of her childhood faves. My cousins and sister and I would pretend we were Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny living on the run, and finding treasures at the local dump.
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 154 pages
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company (January 1, 1989)
Publisher Link: http://www.albertwhitman.com/content.cfm/bookdetails/1-The-Boxcar-Children
Amazon: The Boxcar Children
The Aldens begin their adventure by making a home in a boxcar. Their goal is to stay together, and in the process they find a grandfather.
2) Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White — My 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Steffen, read this book aloud to me and my class. During the scene where Fern and Henry are swinging on the rope in the barn, I literally fell on the floor with laughter. Even back then, I was a Drama Queer. Charlotte’s unconditional love and devotion for Wilbur has always stuck with me, and the last line of the book is perhaps the best of any: “It is not often someone comes along that's a true friend and good writer. Charlotte was both.” This is what I hope to be when it comes to my best friend who I’ve written about in both of my novels thus far.
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins (October 2, 2001)
Publisher Link: http://www.harpercollins.com/books/Charlottes-Web/?isbn=9780064400558
Amazon: Charlotte’s Web
“Some Pig.” These are the words in Charlotte's web, high in the barn. Her spiderweb tells of her feelings for a little pig named Wilbur, as well as the feelings of a little girl named Fern ... who loves Wilbur, too. Their love has been shared by millions of readers.
3) The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis — Also in 2nd grade, I assume that Mrs. Steffen read us this one, too. Or maybe I saw the animated special on TV which lead me to pick up the book (most of my faves all have movie adaptations). Again, my cousins and sister would pretend we were Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy setting off on yet another adventure.
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Mass Market Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins (July 1, 1994)
Publisher Link: http://www.harpercollins.com/books/Lion-Witch-Wardrobe/?isbn=9780064471046
Amazon: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
They open a door and enter a world. Narnia ... a land frozen in eternal winter ... a country waiting to be set free. Four adventurers step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia -- a land enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change ... and a great sacrifice.
4) The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein — 2nd grade was a good year for reading (thank you, Mrs. Steffen!) The story of the boy and his tree always broke my heart. I can’t even think about him sitting down as and old man at the end without getting a little teary eyed.
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 64 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins; First Edition edition (October 7, 1964)
Publisher Link: http://www.harpercollins.com/books/Giving-Tree-Shel-Silverstein/?isbn=9780060256654
Amazon: The Giving Tree
'Once there was a tree...and she loved a little boy.' So begins a story of unforgettable perception, beautifully written and illustrated by the gifted and versatile Shel Silverstein. Every day the boy would come to the tree to eat her apples, swing from her branches, or slide down her trunk...and the tree was happy. But as the boy grew older he began to want more from the tree, and the tree gave and gave and gave. This is a tender story, touched with sadness, aglow with consolation. Shel Silverstein has created a moving parable for readers of all ages that offers an affecting interpretation of the gift of giving and a serene acceptance of another's capacity to love in return.
5) James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl — This one my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Landis, read aloud to our class. What made this story even more special is the fact that on a few occasions, I was allowed the honor to stand before the class, book in hand. Imagine my surprise when I discovered the caterpillar’s affinity for the word “ass.” Needless to say, I had to improve.
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Puffin (April 26, 2000)
Publisher Link: http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780140374247,00.html?strSrchSql=0140374248/James_and_the_Giant_Peach_Roald_Dahl
Amazon: James and the Giant Peach
Roald Dahl was a champion of the underdog and all things little—in this case, an orphaned boy oppressed by two nasty, self-centered aunts. How James escapes his miserable life with the horrible aunts and becomes a hero is a Dahlicious fantasy of the highest order. You will never forget resourceful little James and his new family of magically overgrown insects—a ladybug, a spider, a grasshopper, a glowworm, a silkworm, and the chronic complainer, a centipede with a hundred gorgeous shoes. Their adventures aboard a luscious peach as large as a house take them across the Atlantic Ocean, through waters infested with peach-eating sharks and skies inhabited by malevolent Cloudmen, to a ticker-tape parade in New York City. This happily ever after contemporary fairy tale is a twentieth-century classic that every child deserves to know. And Lane Smith's endearingly funny illustrations are a perfect match for the text.
6) Superfudge by Judy Blume — This one I first discovered in 5th grade, then later forced my teacher, Mr. Cox, to read it to the entire class. Really, I’m a fan of the entire Peter Hatcher/Farley Drexel cannon. I even enjoyed Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, Iggie’s House, and even Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. Then Again, Maybe I Won’t is a good “boy’s book.” As is Starring Sally J. Friedman as Herself for girls. Reading about Peter, Fudge, and Sheila as a boy growing up in Hazeltucky, MI, I never imagined that one day I’d also live in the Big Apple.
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Puffin (April 5, 2007)
Publisher Link: http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780142408803,00.html?strSrchSql=0142408808/Superfudge_Judy_Blume
Fans young and old will laugh out loud at the irrepressible wit of peter Hatcher, the hilarious antics of mischievous Fudge, and the unbreakable confidence of know-it-all Sheila Tubman in Judy Blume’s five Fudge books. Brand-new covers adorn these perennial favorites, and will entice a whole new generation of Fudge’s and Judy Blume’s fans.
7) Hanging Out with Cici by Francine Pascal — Arguably a “girl’s book,” I came upon this one after taking in the “Afterschool Special” My Mother was Never a Kid based on the novel. My junior high librarian, Mrs. Green, alerted me to a copy of this one for sale for $1 at our school book fair. To date, I’ve read it at least a dozen times—as recent as two weeks ago as part of research for the new novel I’m working on that features a similar theme. (I won’t give it away, otherwise to spoil the plot of my new onel!)
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Lions (December 1984)
Amazon: Hanging Out with Cici
8) Sooner or Later by Bruce and Carole Hart — Another TV movie tie-in, I dreamed of meeting and falling in love with a boy with hair like Rex Smith. My father wouldn’t let me watch the movie when it originally aired in 1979 (perhaps he suspected my Rex Smith crush?) I later came to it via the Late-late Show when I was in high school. Not sure exactly where I found the book. But I’ve read it over and over (and over!) and recently picked up the sequel, Waiting Games.
Reading level: Young Adult
Publisher: Avon Books (Mm); 13th THUS edition (August 1983)
Amazon: Sooner or Later
9) The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon — For whatever reason, I didn’t do much reading (at least not for pleasure) in high school or college. But the summer that I graduated from Wayne State, I found a copy of Chabon’s debut in a bin at B. Dalton Booksellers for something like $1.98. I totally judged the book by its cover and took a chance on this is one. As they say, “it changed my life.” I have read this book more times than I can count, and passed it along or recommended to just as many people. When the movie adaptation came out in 2008, I actually did not rush out to see it. Unlike so many others where I’ve almost enjoyed the film more, or didn’t care that “liberties” had been taken, when I learned that the gay character of Arthur Lecomte had been completely excised from this movie adaptation by the writer-director of Dodgeball (!), I literally launched a boycott online urging fans of the novel NOT to go and see it. Shame on Michael Chabon for allowing such a thing to happen to the story that put him on the literary map! I could go on, but…
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Harper Perennial (July 5, 2005)
Publisher Link: http://www.harpercollins.com/books/Mysteries-Pittsburgh-Michael-Chabon/?isbn=9780060790592
Amazon: The Mysteries of Pittsburgh
By the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.
10) The Hours by Michael Cunningham — Perhaps an obvious choice when it comes to Cunningham, I’ve also enjoyed his earlier works (A Home at the End of the World and Flesh and Blood). But this one I appreciate for the author’s ability to weave three separate (and quite beautiful) stories into one unforgettable tale. I also like the movie a lot.
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Picador; Trade paper edition, 4th Printing edition (January 15, 2000)
Publisher Link: http://us.macmillan.com/thehours
Amazon: The Hours
A daring, deeply affecting third novel by the author ofA Home at the End of the World and Flesh and Blood. In The Hours, Michael Cunningham, widely praised as one of the most gifted writers of his generation, draws inventively on the life and work of Virginia Woolf to tell the story of a group of contemporary characters struggling with the conflicting claims of love and inheritance, hope and despair. The narrative of Woolf's last days before her suicide early in World War II counterpoints the fictional stories of Samuel, a famous poet whose life has been shadowed by his talented and troubled mother, and his lifelong friend Clarissa, who strives to forge a balanced and rewarding life in spite of the demands of friends, lovers, and family. Passionate, profound, and deeply moving, this is Cunningham's most remarkable achievement to date.
About Frank Anthony Polito: Frank Anthony Polito is a Brooklyn-based actor and playwright. He can be seen in the films One True Thing with Meryl Streep and Renee Zellweger, Hitch with Will Smith, and The Peacemaker with George Clooney.
On TV he has appeared on Spin City, The Sopranos and One Life to Live. On stage he has worked off-Broadway at Primary Stages and Revelation Theater and played the role of James in the Washington, D.C. premiere of Corpus Christi by Terrence McNally.
Frank's first play, JOHN R, was produced in New York City in 2001 and is the basis for BAND FAGS!. Other plays have been seen at the New York International Fringe Festival, Bailiwick Repertory Theatre in Chicago, Mill Mountain Theatre in Roanoke, VA, and at The Dayton Playhouse in Dayton, OH.
His teleplay, Blind Faith, was a finalist for the Alfred P. Sloan teleplay competition at Carnegie Mellon University where he received his M.F.A. in Dramatic Writing in 2006.
Frank grew up in the Detroit suburb of Hazel Park, near 10 Mile and John R. He began playing trumpet in 6th grade (but later switched to French horn) and is proud to have been a Band Fag.
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Kensington; 1 edition (June 1, 2009)
Publisher Link: http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/finditem.cfm?itemid=14165
Amazon: Drama Queers!
Ever since Mrs. Malloy assigned us the What I Want To Be When I Grow Up paper earlier that year in her 1st hour English, my mind had been made up… I, Bradley James Dayton, will be a famous actor someday!
Meet Bradley Dayton—a wickedly funny high school senior whose woefully uncool life always seems to be full of drama, even in the sorry little suburb of Hazel Park, Michigan. It’s 1987, the era of big hair, designer jeans, and Dirty Dancing. George Michael has “Faith” and Michael Jackson still has a nose. Brad, on the other hand, has a thing for acting, and while his friends are trying to get laid, Brad’s trying to land the lead in Okla-homo! and practicing the Jane Seymour monologue from Somewhere in Time.
Sure, he’d like to get laid too, but while Brad has known he was gay forever, the rest of “Hillbilly High” is not so forthcoming. Brad’s already lost one best friend, Jack, who dropped out of marching band to step into the closet. But lately, things are looking up. Not only has Brad made Homecoming Top Five, but Richie, a new, totally cute member of drama club, definitely seems to be sending signals—and he’s not the only one. Before senior year ends, Brad will know more about love, lust, and friendship than he ever thought possible. Because if all the world’s a stage, he’s ready to be in the spotlight…