A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana

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Overview

When Haven Kimmel was born in 1965, Mooreland, Indiana was a sleepy little hamlet of three hundred people. Nicknamed "Zippy" for the way she would run around like a circus monkey, this small girl was possessed of big eyes and even bigger ears. In this lovingly told memoir, Kimmel takes readers back in time to when small-town America was still trapped in the amber of the innocent post-war period—people help their neighbors, go to church, keep barnyard animals in their backyards.

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A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland Indiana

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Overview

When Haven Kimmel was born in 1965, Mooreland, Indiana was a sleepy little hamlet of three hundred people. Nicknamed "Zippy" for the way she would run around like a circus monkey, this small girl was possessed of big eyes and even bigger ears. In this lovingly told memoir, Kimmel takes readers back in time to when small-town America was still trapped in the amber of the innocent post-war period—people help their neighbors, go to church, keep barnyard animals in their backyards.

To three-year-old Zippy, it makes perfect sense to striek a bargain with her father to keep her baby bottle—never mind that when she does, it's the first time she's ever spoken. The words never stop once Zippy finds her voice, and it is a voice that Kimmel captures perfectly page after page. In her nonplussed family, Zippy has the ideal supporting cast: her beautiful yet dour brother, Danny, a seeker of the true faith; her sweetly sensible sister, Lindy, who wins the local beauty pageant; her mother, Delonda, who dispenses wisdom from the corner of the couch; and her father, Bob Jarvis, who never met a bet he didn't take. The world seen through Zippy's eyes is vivid and occasionally mind-boggling, especially when Zippy grapples with the meaning of time and has to go lie in a "worm hole" to recover.

Whether describing a serious case of chicken love, another episode with the evil old woman across the street, or the night Zippy's dad borrows thirty-six coon dogs and a raccoon to prove to the complaining neighbors just how quiet his two dogs are, Kimmel treats readers to a heroine as appealing, naive, and knowing as Scout Finch as she navigates the quirky adult world surrounding Zippy.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
It's a clich to say that a good memoir reads like a well-crafted work of fiction, but Kimmel's smooth, impeccably humorous prose evokes her childhood as vividly as any novel. Born in 1965, she grew up in Mooreland, Ind., a place that by some "mysterious and powerful mathematical principle" perpetually retains a population of 300, a place where there's no point learning the street names because it's just as easy to say, "We live at the four-way stop sign." Hers is less a formal autobiography than a collection of vignettes comprising the things a small child would remember: sick birds, a new bike, reading comics at the drugstore, the mean old lady down the street. The truths of childhood are rendered in lush yet simple prose; here's Zippy describing a friend who hates wearing girls' clothes: "Julie in a dress was like the rest of us in quicksand." Over and over, we encounter pearls of third-grade wisdom revealed in a child's assured voice: "There are a finite number of times one can safely climb the same tree in a single day"; or, regarding Jesus, "Everyone around me was flat-out in love with him, and who wouldn't be? He was good with animals, he loved his mother, and he wasn't afraid of blind people." (Mar.) Forecast: Dreamy and comforting, spiced with flashes of wit, this book seems a natural for readers of the Oprah school of women's fiction (e.g., Elizabeth Berg, Janet Fitch). The startling baby photograph on the cover should catch browsers' eyes. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
In this first book, Kimmel has written a love letter to her hometown of Mooreland, IN, a town with an unchanging population of 300 in America's heartland. Nicknamed "Zippy" for her energetic interpretation of a circus monkey, she could not be bothered to speak until she was three years old, and her first words involved bargaining with her father about whether or not a baby bottle was still appropriate. Born in 1965, Zippy lived in a world filled with a loving family, peculiar neighbors, and multitudes of animals, including a chicken she loved and treated like a baby. Her story is filled with good humor, fine storytelling, and acute observations of small town life. Recommended for libraries in the Midwest or with large memoir collections.--Pam Kingsbury, Alabama Humanities Fdn., Florence Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
"Almost dreamlike in some of [her] elusive storytelling, [Kimmel] pulls off a feat that’s harder than it looks: write for adults from a child’s perspective . . . Zippy's parents must have done something right to produce a girl who could write such a simple and lovely book."
USA Today

"A Girl Named Zippy seems to be about the cleverest . . . memoir ever. [Kimmel is] a born storyteller . . . I imagine everyone in the world would be grateful for Kimmel’s book."
Orlando Sentinel

"Very engaging, funny . . . it could be a cheerier version of the Leechfield, Texas, Mary Karr chronicled in The Liar’s Club, if drunks never got ugly and if fathers never took a belt to their kids."
Hartford Courant

"Delightfully wry (and sometimes laugh-out-loud-funny)."
Indianapolis Star

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780753198124
  • Publisher: ISIS Large Print Books
  • Publication date: 1/28/2002
  • Series: Isis Hardcover Series
  • Edition description: Large Print
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.82 (w) x 9.02 (h) x 1.05 (d)

Meet the Author

Haven Kimmel

Haven Kimmel studied English and creative writing at Ball State University and North Carolina State University and attended seminary at the Earlham School of Religion. She lives in Durham, North Carolina.

Biography

Haven Kimmel is the author of the memoir A Girl Named Zippy. She studied English and creative writing at Ball State University and North Carolina State University. She also attended seminary at the Earlham School of Religion. She lives in Durham, North Carolina.

Author biography courtesy of Random House, Inc.

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    1. Hometown:
      Durham, North Carolina
    1. Date of Birth:
      1965
    2. Place of Birth:
      Mooreland, Indiana
    1. Education:
      B.A., Ball State University
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt



Excerpt

Baby Book


The following was recorded by my mother in my baby book, under the heading milestones:

first steps: Nine months! Precocious!

first teeth: Bottom two, at eight months. Still nursing her, but she doesn't bite, thank goodness!

first says "mommy": (blank)

first says "daddy": (blank)

first waves bye-bye: As of her first birthday, she is not much interested in waving bye-bye.

At age eighteen months, the baby book provided a space for further milestones, in which my mother wrote:

She's still very active and energetic. Her daddy calls her "Zippy," after a little chimpanzee he saw roller-skating on television. The monkey was first in one place and then zip! in another. Has twelve teeth. I'm still nursing her?she's a thin baby, and it can't hurt?but I'm thinking of weaning her to a bottle. There's no sense in trying to get her to drink from a cup. Still not talking. Dr. Heilman says she has perfectly good vocal cords, and to give it time.

On my second birthday:

Still no words from our little Zippy. She is otherwise a delight and a very sweet baby. I have turned her life over to God, to do with as He sees fit. I believe He must have a very special plan for her, because I'm sure that terrible staph infection in her ear that nearly killed her when she was a newborn must have, as the doctors feared, reached her brain. She is so quiet we hardly know she is here, and so unlike many of our friends, we can speak freely in front of her without fear she will repeat us. Little Becky Dawson walked up to Agnes Johnson in church last Sunday and calledher Broad As A Barn. You know she heard that at home. We are very grateful for our little angel on her second birthday.

This entry was made on a separate piece of paper:

I've been thinking about first words, and so before I forget, here are some other important ones:

Melinda: Mama

Danny: No

Bob: Me (Mom Mary thought this was so cute; she says she first thought he was saying ma ma ma but really he was saying me me me)

My first word, of course, was Magazine.

The other day I overheard Melinda saying her night-time prayers, and she was asking that someday her little sister be able to tie her shoes. Bless her heart. We all hope as much.

Under favorite activities, Mom recorded:

God's Own Special Angel: Our Miracle Baby!

Far and away her favorite activity is rocking. She has her own rocking chair, and Bob rocks her to sleep every night. She is now refusing to take naps in her baby bed; if I try putting her down she doesn't cry or make any noise, but holds on to the rail and bounces so hard and for so long that I fear for her little spinal cord. She is not content until I put her on her rocking horse, where she bounces hard enough to cause it to hop across the floor. Eventually she grows weary and begins rocking, and then the rocking slows down, and finally she puts her head down on the hard, plastic mane and falls asleep, and I am able to move her to her bed.

Dr. Heilman is finally recognizing that all of this might be due to the fact that her umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck three times when she was born. I'm not sure why that has caused her not to grow any hair, however. She does have a few precious wisps, which I slick together with baby oil in order to put in a barrette or a ribbon.

Also she loves to go camping. Went fishing for the first time when she was only three weeks old! Her daddy is starting early! She carries a bottle with her everywhere she goes (which is everywhere). Everyone thinks I should have weaned her (she is now 30 months), but I just don't have the heart to take anything away from her.

This letter, written in my mom's tiny, precise script, was placed haphazardly in the middle of the book:

Dearest Little One: I don't know if you'll ever be able to read this, but there's a story I think you should know. When you were only five weeks old, just a tiny, tiny baby, you became very ill. You ran a terribly high fever, and would not stop crying, night and day. The doctors said you had a staph infection in your ear, and that there was nothing they could do. Dr. Heilman was out of town, and we were sent to his replacement. He told us you could die at home or in the hospital. We took you home, and I didn't sleep for days. In desperation your father called our dear friends Ruth and Roland Wiser, and they drove down to Mooreland from Gary. Gary, Indiana, sweetheart, which is hours and hours away! You father locked me in the Driftwood, our little camper, and Ruth and Roland stayed up all night, taking turns walking you so I could sleep. The next day I took you back to the doctor. He told us there was a new kind of medicine, an antibiotic, that might possibly help you, but he was not reassuring. He said there were twenty-six varieties of this medicine (the same as the alphabet); that probably only one would do you any good, and that he couldn't possibly know which one to prescribe, because they were so new. He showed me a sample case of them, little vials lined up along a spectrum, and then he just reached in and plucked one out and told me to try it. I could tell he knew it was hopeless.

We took you home and gave you the medicine. You cried yourself to sleep, and I, too, fell asleep rocking you. Just before I nodded off I told God plainly that I was letting you go, that I was delivering you into His hands. When I woke up you were silent, and I knew you were gone. I felt something damp against my arm, and when I pulled back your baby blanket, I saw that the infection had broken and run out your ear. Your skin was cool and covered with sweat, and you were sleeping deeply.

When Dr. Heilman came home he told us that the resident had been right?there was only one medicine that would have saved you, and he plucked it blindly out of the case. Dr. Heilman calls you his "Miracle Baby" now. Olive Overton, my dear friend from church, says that she knew you before you were born, and that it took you some time to decide whether or not you wanted to stay in this world.

I thought you ought to know about Ruth and Roland. What they did was what it means to love someone. We are all so grateful you decided to stay.

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Table of Contents

Prologue 1
Baby Book 5
Hair 10
The Lion 14
Qualities of Light, or Disasters Involving Animals 17
Julie Hit Me Three Times 31
Daniel 40
There She Is 46
Blood of the Lamb 51
Unexpected Injuries 61
The Kindness of Strangers 73
Favors for Friends 83
Haunted Houses 91
Professionals 114
Chance 125
A Short List of Things My Father Lost Gambling 130
The World of Ideas 134
Location 144
Diner 167
Slumber Party 173
ESP 188
Interior Design 192
Cemetery 201
Drift Away 211
Reading List 217
Arisen 235
The Social Gospel 245
The Letter 262
A Guide for Reading Groups 279
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Reading Group Guide

1. Zipp's numerous pets include Sam the Pig, Speckles the Chicken, dogs Kai and Tiger, a pony named Tim, cats PeeDink and Smokey, and Skippy the Hamster. How does Haven Kimmel develop the animals as sympathetic characters or villains (such as Chanticleer, the abusive rooster)? How does a child’s bond with animals differ from that of an adult? Which of Zippy's pet stories was the most memorable for you? Discuss the significant animals of your own childhood.

2. At first glance, A Girl Named Zippy appears to be a collection of assorted scenes, almost like a scrapbook. Yet the chapters unfold as if they were part of novel. What themes thread their way through the work as a whole? What recurring predicaments are resolved as Zippy gets older?

3. Haven Kimmel introduces us to a slew of eccentric Mooreland residents, from the grumpy drugstore owner to the postman who only delivers the mail he approves of. How do various communities--big cities and small towns alike--define eccentricity? Were Mooreland’s attempts at homogeneity and clean living successful? How does Mooreland compare to your town?

4. The introductory quote from Emerson asks, "Is there no event... which shall not, sooner or later, lose its adhesive, inert form?" Which portions of A Girl Named Zippy do you perceive as being precisely accurate, and which ones seem slightly embellished by the process Emerson calls "soaring from our body into the empyrean"?

5. Consider Zippy’s family: her gun-toting but sensitive dad, bookish mother, adored big brother, and mercurial big sister. In what ways is the Jarvis family dynamic both typical and unusual?

6.Does Haven Kimmel seem to approve or disapprove of her upbringing?

7. Zippy often discusses religion. How does her mother’s Quaker community differ from her father's "church in the woods"? Is he really as godless as his wife thinks he is?

8. Numerous memoirs have been published that expose deeply painful childhoods. Haven Kimmel alludes to a few dark aspects of life in Mooreland, such as poverty, a lecherous teacher, and her father’s gambling problem. How do Zippy's coping skills compare to those of other children you've read about?

9. The chapter entitled "The World of Ideas" introduces us to Zippy's maternal grandmother, described as "a moneyed old woman in a small, depressed city." What insight does this section give us into Zippy's mother, who was raised in an environment that was very different from Zippy's?

10. How was Zippy changed by her friendship with Dana, whose parents worked in a factory, were atheists, and seemed uninterested in their child?

11. A few aspects of Zippy's childhood would be hard to find in today's households. Which of her recollections best represent the late 1960s and early 1970s?

12. Zippy had an unusual bond with Julie, her snaggletooth friend. How do you suppose Zippy was able to interpret Julie's silence, even over the phone? Why did Julie hit Zippy three times in the chapter by the same name?

13. Petey was Zippy's nemesis, abusing animals and even raising a carnivorous rabbit. Discuss the grade-school bullies in your past. What sort of adults did they become?

14. What is it about Haven Kimmel's tone that makes even everyday events seem compelling? How does she balance humor and poignancy?

15. Were the Jarvises poor?

16. In light of the book’s beginning, what is the significance of the story in the final chapter, in which Zippy receives a piano from Santa? What do the closing sentences "thank you for not losing faith" and "thank you for being so brave tonight" reveal about Zippy and her parents?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 80 )
Rating Distribution

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(39)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 81 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2007

    Loved it! Loved it! Loved it!

    I loved this book so much that I bought 4 more copies and sent them to my mother, my daughter, and my two best friends! As a woman who grew up in a small town in the Midwest in the 60s and 70s, this book really hit home! It is both hilarious and heartwarming. I absolutely love Zippy and her family, as flawed as they may be. I read it within a few days, and then purchased and started on Ms. Kimmel's next book. All I can say to her is, 'Keep 'em coming!'

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2006

    A 'normal' version of Running with Scissors

    I am in love with Haven Kimmel (Zippy). I could not put this book down and found myself convulsing with laughter while reading it. I fell in love with each family member. This is a great read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2003

    The funniest book I've ever read!

    Honest to God, if there is one story you must read in your lifetime, it is 'A Girl Named Zippy'. Haven Kimmel's writing style (in this book) is superb and her character development is phenomenal. On many occasions, I literally found myself laughing hysterically outloud. In fact, I even read portions of the book to my husband because it was sooooo entertaining. Do yourself a favor, and pick this book up today. You will not regret it and you will even find moments in your busy, hectic day where you'll think about some of the funny parts in this book. And it will bring a smile to your face, guaranteed. I am choosing this book for my book club this month and hope that everyone will enjoy it like I did.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 27, 2011

    A heartwarming story - Great read!

    A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel is a book full of cute stories of a big eyed and curious girl who lives in the small town of Mooreland, Indiana in the 1970¿s. Nicknamed ¿Zippy¿ from her father for the way she ran around the house, she was a girl with big eyes and ears and an even bigger personality. In this memoir, you follow the life of Zippy from her family to friends to the many barnyard pets she finds so fascinating. These collective memories of a simple country girl create the heartwarming and touching tale of a young American girl as she finds herself.
    The major themes and messages throughout the book are how family and friends are so important. The author describes this importance of friends and family throughout her memoir by showing how happy and helpful the people in her life were. Haven Kimmel describes the looks and smells of her family and friends in positive way. Her vivid memories and smells of her kitchen, barn and house give you the warm feeling that can only be given through the wonderful family and friends we are close to.
    I am not usually a fan of nonfiction but A Girl Named Zippy was a quick and cute read that captivated the reader. The author was able to not just tell you the story of a small town in Indiana, but she was able to show it to you from the perspective of a curios girl growing up and all of her questions and observations that kept the reader involved. I really enjoyed the simplicity of the book and the heartwarming memories that created it. It really makes the reader appreciate the little memories that make up life.
    This memoir contained many short stories, and some to me didn¿t have too much meaning in Zippy¿s life. I enjoyed majority of the memories but some of them seemed pointless and didn¿t give you any insight into the character¿s feelings. Occasionally, characters were introduced but not brought up again. The stories were touching but didn¿t have much action in them. I always thought there would be more of a plot but I never really found one.
    This book shares a lot about the 1970¿s lifestyle and living in the country at this time. If readers are interested in this and heartwarming tales that let you connect with the author, they should definitely read this book. It is great for readers who like short stories and the simple things in life that we all remember. If a reader wants more action and a big scene with a fast paced storyline though, then this is definitely not the book for them.
    As far as nonfiction goes, I also recommend Someday My Prince Will Come by Jerramy Fine. It¿s a great, true story of a girl who will do almost anything to pursue her dream of being a princess.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2012

    One of the best ever. Rereadable and quoteable.

    This is truly one of the best books I've ever read (and I read a LOT!) It's rereadable, quotable ("It's my real hair!"), moving, laugh out loud funny, cry-it's-so-true-and-sad. I've read it several times; it's always on my Nook. You can pick it up anywhere and read a chapter. I gave a copy to my sister, she gave copies to her friends, it just goes on!

    Whether Kimmel really remembers everything exactly as it happened, it's so true. Her writing is moving without being pretentious. She evokes a little life in a big way. I'm not much for memoirs;they're usually about lives that are only interesting in a purient way. But Zippy! There's a very short list of books I'll read for the rest of my life, and this is one of them.

    I've tried her fiction...eh. Nothing she's ever written, in my opinion, is as good as Zippy, and it's sequel, She Got Up Off the Couch.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 6, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Memories!

    This is a memoir about a girl who was born in 1965 and grew up in a small Indiana town. At first I was thinking I would have little interest in or find anything I would relate to in her story. I was wrong. Haven Kimmel did a great job of telling her story in a way that was interesting and funny. I found myself relating to many aspects of the story. Being about the same age as Zippy helped me relate to the era she grew up in, but the story is about more than being born in the 60's, growing up in a small town or being a girl, it's about being a kid and being a kid is something we can all relate to.

    As I was reading "A Girl Named Zippy" I found myself having fond memories of my own childhood and moments spent with my parents. What more could one as for?

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2005

    LIKE LIVING WITH ZIPPY!

    i thought this was the most poignant and hilarous tale of growing up in indiana! this young womans take on her childhood was to refreshing-no abuse, no drugs, (maybe a dash of alcohol just to be social), no nothing except unconditional love and devotion. she's able to embody a young girls mind unlike anyone i've ever seen. it's a bit ramona the pest meets dorothy parker! just awesome. i hope to see more of this wonderful author.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2003

    I laughed all the way through the book!

    I recieved this book as a gift and was hesitant to begin reading it thinking that "Zippy" was going to be another boring autobiography. Was I wrong!! This book is hilarious. I couldn't put it down once I began to read. If you grew up in the mid to late 60's this is definitely a book for you. I caught myself laughing out loud on several occasions. It's a must read for anyone that wants a good laugh. It reminded me so much of growing up with my own brothers and sisters. It is truly hilarious!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2002

    very funny

    I loved this book I didnt want it to end. i would love if she had a second book to this one.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2002

    So much fun

    I really enjoyed this book, it was so quirky and well written. The adventures of this little girl are full of fun and reality. The author makes some great observations about her life, her family and the town she grew up. Its a quick read that will have you laughing.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2002

    I love it, I love it, I LOVE IT!!!!

    Much as I hated my midwestern small town as a teenager, this book brought back fond childhood memories. I look to this book time and again to read its excerpts which comfort me.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2013

    funny and heartfelt

    This book was laugh out loud funny! Anyone who grew up in a small town anywhere in the US can relate to her experiences. Childhood and life in general can be confusing and crazy to a kid. But inspite of it all the kid turns out okay. Better than okay. For a lot of heart warming laughs I say read this book. You wont regret it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2012

    Laughed til I cried

    What a fantastic book! I could not have enjoyed this book more.

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  • Posted June 9, 2012

    Not Sure What the Message Is

    This book wasn't for me. It was a series of randomly related anecdotes and memories about a small town girl, and I wasn't sure how I was supposed to relate. I didn't find it interesting. The writing was colorful enough to keep me reading from beginning to end, but I never fully engaged.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2012

    READ THIS REVIEW!!!!!!!!!

    This book is pure awesomeness!!!! My absolute favorite book...and that's saying alot because I read alot of books. Give this book a try. You won't regret it.
    - CrazyDaisy

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  • Posted May 25, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    not funny

    I bought this book because I was hoping for some mindless entertainment and laughter. More than half way through and not even a smile yet ; (

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  • Posted February 27, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    HYSTERICAL

    I've read ZIPPY now in two book clubs I've been in and laughed harder each time I've read it. I've also read the sequel, SHE GOT UP OFF THE COUCH and thought it was just as funny. They are both the books I recommend when anyone asks for a book to read when they need something fun, lighthearted and humorous. There isn't anything horrible, sad, raunchy, scary or bad in these books. Just cute stories about a funny, quirky kid and a somewhat screwball family from the midwest in the 60's and 70's. You have to be a certain age to appreciate these books.

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  • Posted July 31, 2010

    Always makes me laugh

    I have read the printed version of this book several times and it never fails to make me laugh at loud every time. Whenever I am feeling down, I can pick up this book and quickly be put into a better mood.

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  • Posted May 10, 2010

    A Girl Named Zippy

    As an "odd" child that also grew up in small-town Indiana, I knew I would be able to relate to the book " A Girl Named Zippy: Growing up small in Mooreland, Indiana." I understood what it was like to have siblings you did not understand, people in your town that are "famous" in a way only the locals would understand, and using landmarks to give directions, instead of actual streets. What surprised me with this book were the details and thoughts of Zippy's mind that I could not relate to. The mind of a child is so unique and creative, that it is absolutely hilarious to read some of the thoughts that other people had when growing up. This book also helped me remember that while children may lack age, they do not lack the wisdom to understand some of the darkest aspects of human nature. I am definitely sharing this book with my friends and family, and I know they will find something touching within it.

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  • Posted February 21, 2010

    Funny, Fascinating, Fun

    Zippy was a fast read. I enjoyed it. It was humorous.

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