Breakfast at the Liberty Diner

by Daniel Kirk
Hyperion, 1997
liberty Diner

Book Description
There are not many diners left in this country, but between the 1930’s and 1950’s diners provided good, inexpensive meals to both strangers passing through and families, including little ones. This is a story of Bobby, his mother, and little brother who stop at a diner to have breakfast while waiting for Uncle Angelo. The noise, the smell, and the code language used by the waitress to place orders all add to the ambience of the environment. To top it off, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt enters the diner. A victim of polio himself, Bobby is left inspired by his encounter with this man who overcame his own physical disabilities to become president of the United States.

Reviews of Breakfast at the Liberty Diner
(Arizona Young Readers Award 2000)

Review from Publishers Weekly ( * starred review)
Kirk’s tone is unabashedly patriotic, like campaign propaganda from a bygone era. This, after all, is “Liberty” Diner, a legendary slice of Americana.

Review from Family Life (Critic’s choice award)
Kirk’s admiration for Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his love of old-fashioned diners come beautifully together in this ‘30’s era story about a family’s chance meeting with President Roosevelt.

Daniel Kirk speaks about Breakfast at the Liberty Diner
Diners are a great American institution.
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But while the routine activities of a cook, waitress, or restaurant customer are interesting, I wasn’t sure that they were interesting enough for the subject of a book.

It occurred to me that I might make a story out of having someone famous come into the diner. This would add interest, and show how diners were the kinds of places where every kind of person, high or low, might go to eat. I made a list of possible types of famous people–movie stars, baseball players, gangsters, politicians. Since I wanted the book to take place in the heyday of diners, I had to think about the 1930’s.

In the end, I wrote a very serious story. It’s not only about the events of a particular morning at a bustling roadside restaurant, but also about the nature of hope in America. The story takes place in the Great Depression, and President Franklin Roosevelt comes into a diner for lunch. There he meets a little boy who is afflicted with polio, just like Roosevelt himself. The boy’s brief but happy interaction with the president lifts his spirits, and gives him courage to face his own challenges.

Things to think about and do once you have read Breakfast at the Liberty Diner

1. Have you ever eaten in a diner? How is the food different in a diner than in a regular fast-food restaurant, like a McDonalds or Burger King?
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2. Get a parent to take you to a diner for breakfast or lunch. Ask the waiter or waitress if he or she knows any diner slang. Use some of the slang in Breakfast at the Liberty Diner to order your meal, and see if your server knows what you are talking about!

3. Back in the 20th century, polio was a disease that killed or crippled millions of people, including the American president whose picture you can see on a dime, Franklin Roosevelt. Ask your librarian to help you find out about this terrible disease and how it affected our country over a period of many years.

4. Read about President Roosevelt, and find out about what he did for our country during the 1930’s and 1940’s during his three full terms in office. Research how he handled being crippled with polio, and how if affected his relationship to the public and the way he worked, played and traveled.

                              Copyright 2015 | Daniel Kirk