A girl named Zippy : growing up small in Mooreland, Indiana

by Haven Kimmel

Paper Book, 2001




London : Ebury, 2002, c2001.


Named "Zippy" for the way she would bolt around her home, Kimmel's witty memoir takes readers back to a time when small-town America was caught in the amber of the innocent post-war period, where people helped their neighbors, went to church on Sunday, and kept barnyard animals in their backyards.

User reviews

LibraryThing member brendajanefrank
Well-written, very funny autobiography of Zippy growing up in Mooreland, Indiana.
LibraryThing member javagal
I enjoyed A Girl Named Zippy. As a child who grew up in the 60s I could relate to her childhood experiences. Quirky, fun and entertaining describes this read!

Favorite Quote- "I later discovered that in order to be a good athlete one must care intensely what is happening with a ball, even if one doesn't have possesion of it. This was ultimately my failure: my inability to work up a passion for the location of balls."… (more)
LibraryThing member alanna1122
I really wanted to quit reading this book... I plugged through 100 pages of it and couldnt handle all the animal death in it and had to put it aside. There was part of me that just couldnt believe that there could ba another awful animal story on *every single* page*. There was description after description of animals being killed, tortured and mistreated. All it was handled in a light way as if these events could be humorous... if you are a person who is sensitive to this sort of thing I would steer clear of this book. Its a shame because I really liked her writing style and I kept thinking.. this has *got* to be coming to an end... and then there was more and more... I made it through the end of the book.. and there are a few of her stories that are quite charming... but overall i found the book MUCH too distressing to ever recommend it to anyone. I am really surprised that many people say they enjoyed this book.… (more)
LibraryThing member nltrapp
A light, entertaining memoir. In many ways, the author's childhood was presented as being a simple, small town experience, with plenty of lessons being learned in a fun manner. Yet on closer inspection, the book deals with some big issues, especially family matters, that makes you ponder how simple life really was for her. This made for an interesting read.… (more)
LibraryThing member karieh
OK – this is only the second of Haven Kimmel’s books that I’ve read – and I have to say that she’s rocketing to the top of my favorite authors chart. “The Used World” was the first book of hers that I read and loved and now I can say that I like her fiction AND non-fiction.

I remember when “A Girl Named Zippy” came out…with that title and with that cover? Who could miss it? At the time, I dismissed it, I’m not sure why. Probably? Because the word Zippy was in the title. Foolish me!

“Not long ago my sister Melinda shocked me by saying she had always assumed that the book on Mooreland had yet to be written because no one sane would be interested in reading it. “No, no, wait,” she said. “I know who might read such a book. A person lying in a hospital bed with no television and no roommate. Just lying there. Maybe waiting for a physical therapist. And then here comes a candy striper with a squeaky library cart and on that cart is only one book – or maybe two books: yours, and Cooking with Pork. I can see how a person would be grateful for Mooreland then.”

Count me as grateful and/or insane. Though I probably never want to live in Mooreland, Indiana (population 300), I certainly enjoyed Kimmel’s lovingly drawn memoirs of her childhood there.

Back to the cover of the book, by the way? On at least my copy, it features a…striking picture of a child, I assume Haven Kimmel, which inspires one of the best quotes of the book. “When my mother first saw me in the hospital she looked up with tears in her eyes and said to my father, “I’ll love her and protect her anyway.”

This book is filled with a mix of very funny, very sad and sometime incredibly poignant stories. One passage might make me laugh out loud, and the next may have me silenced by its loveliness. After her father gives her a single egg as a reminder of a lost beloved pet, “I put it in the refrigerator, on a nest made out of a blue handkerchief. Over the next few days and weeks I took it out and looked at it many times, but I didn’t know what to do with it. I kept it so long that whatever was inside it completely dried up, and finally it was so light and insubstantial in my hand that it seemed barely to exist. It was just a sigh of a thing.”

I am far from a small town person, but one senses the love and nostalgia in Kimmel’s words that make a town with an unchanging population of 300 sound not too bad.

“When I think of getting up for church, it is always winter in our house, but when I think of the actual walk, a small town block – our house and yard and the house and yard of Reed and Mary Ball, who never ever left their front porch – it is always a perfect summer day that will wither in my absence.”

It’s that mixture of seeing with adult and child’s eyes simultaneously, and the acknowledgement of the eccentric things that are our memories that I think I appreciated the most. A mixture seasoned liberally with gentle humor.

“Yes, like a Shrine.” As far as I knew, Shrines wore absurd hats and drove miniature cars in circles during the Mooreland Fair Parade, and were praised, inexplicably, for burning children.”

Towards the end of the book, I finally caught on to the fact that Kimmel grew up in extremely poor circumstances. It’s not that she tries to hide that fact…it’s that nothing is written in a way to inspire pity or awe or sympathy. She lays the facts out, but then puts the focus on that which in her life was the most positive. The things didn’t matter…the people mattered.

“When he (her father) was at the wheel, everyone else could sleep because he never would. In short, he was what it meant to be a father and a man in 1971. Up against his power I could see none of his failings.”

And “Even though my mother almost never left the couch, she was a woman of many gifts, my favorite being her ability to make anything she was eating crunch. I still don’t know how she did it, and I tried to stump her with a wide variety of foods. “Aha! Try these raisins,” I would say triumphantly. And she’d put a couple of raisins in her mouth and crunch, crunch, crunch. She could make them sound like corn nuts.”

The love that Haven Kimmel has for her family, and the appreciation she seems to have for the gift that was her childhood comes shining through this memoir. I see that she wrote a second non-fiction book about her mother…and I am adding that to my wish list as we speak. I’m looking forward to another trip to Mooreland…in a literary way.
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LibraryThing member brwneyes16
This book is one of those books where I found myself laughing out loud several times throughout. I was surprised to read about people being upset about animal cruelty. That never struck me while reading this book, but that may be because I grew up in a tiny town in the midwest where hunting, raising animals for slaughter, etc. were every day occurences - I'm just speculating. I read parts of it out loud to my 11 year old, and she found the situations also funny. They way she writes about her family is endearing and hysterical. A great read.… (more)
LibraryThing member carmarie
I love this memoir. Zippy is a funny witty girl that I would have loved to be one of her many back-burner best friends. This was a delightful read and I look forward to her next memoir as well as her fiction books.
LibraryThing member countrybookgal
Don't read this book if you have a hard time reading about animal cruelty.
LibraryThing member vfranklyn
I've been very lucky recently to have found quite a few very good books. This book is no exception. It is very well written. I loved Zippy's voice and the way the author manages to convey the thoughts of a child believably.
LibraryThing member pdebolt
Haven Kimmel has created an "everyman" small midwestern hometown in the 50's where people knew their neighbors and children grew up with strong attachments to family and friends. Trust was a given and suspicion of people one didn't know was rare. It is apparent that Zippy profited from a childhood where she was free to make her own decisions and draw her own conclusions. My favorite character is her dad, who treated Zippy, her sister and brother with the respect that is due to everyone and he allowed them to enjoy his wonderfully dry humor. He was not hypocritical, so they gained an early insight into integrity of character. I liked everyone I "met" in the pages of this wonderful book. I would like to have been Zippy's friend then - and now.… (more)
LibraryThing member LaBibliophille
Another memoir (there seem to be lots of these around lately). Lower middle class family, poor parenting, and yet the author triumphs! But this one had some genuinely funny moments, and some truly touching scenes.
LibraryThing member DanaJean
Funny, heartwarming, honest--this book reminded me of a grown-up and just a shade darker take on Junie B. Jones. Well written, just a nice flow to the stories.
LibraryThing member luba
This delightfully, funny book was nostalgic for me because it reminded me of all the "characters" you're so likely to know in a small town where everybody knows everybody. I used to spend summers with my grandparents in a small Texas town (gigantic by Zippy's standards), with many similar characters and enjoyed having it all brought back by the similar but still different characters in this book. I loved the drugstore/pharmacist who shouted at the walls instead of directly at people and bearded Edith, the one who terrified everyone.

More than a funny memoir, this book about a girl growing up in the late '60s and early '70s hints at a less than rosy family life in her mother who sits on the couch all day eating and reading sci-fi books and her father who gambles and drinks. As a child, Zippy is less aware of the darker side of her childhood, but she develops these elements in more detail in her sequel, "She Got Up off the Couch", which is also excellent, but more sobering.

Another interesting element is how much our society has changed since Zippy. Would you let your child run out of the house and disappear for hours on end without knowing exactly whose house s/he is at, what time she'll be home and without a directive to go nowhere else during that time? Is it negligence or a sad commentary on the times today?

I truly loved this book and embarrassed myself once or twice by bursting out laughing on the subway. If you like happy stories of childhood, read it.
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LibraryThing member DonnaB317
I laughed till I cried and then tried to read parts out lot to my husband and had such an uncontrolled laughing fit I couldn't get through it and had to hand him the book to read himself.
H Y S T E R I C A L !
LibraryThing member drbubbles
A bunch of biographical anecdotes organized into chapters more or less by theme. Often the stories are funny, sometimes poignant, sometimes sad. As far as I can tell they span her first 10 years of life. They are not presented in chronological order, and family/community details are not always provided when you start wondering about them, so there's a kind of pleasure of discovery when things you've already wondered about do get revealed. If I were to complain about the contents of the book it would be that there aren't enough, but maybe there are — maybe more would have been too much.

At the beginning the language struck me as quite varied and lovely and a pleasure to hear in the mind's ear. By the end I thought it had become a bit flat. That cost it half a star. (Reminding me of the sterility of my own life cost it another half.)
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LibraryThing member nhart
Excellent read. Even though Zippy had less than the ideal parents--she saw the positive and appears to have had a memorable childhood. Funny incidents and profound experiences with both parents and sibblings. Father's "church" a great example.
LibraryThing member Jenners26
The title pretty much says it all, but it doesn't tell you how amazingly well-written this book is and how endearing the author, family and town is. I fell in love with this book when I first read it, and I reread it every few years just to revisit the world that Kimmel describes with such love. There is a follow-up book -- She Got Up Off The Couch -- that chronicles the author's mother's "radical" (for the times) college education and what she went through to get it.… (more)
LibraryThing member kingsportlibrary
This is such an enjoyable book to read - a feel good memoir of a youngster growing up in Indiana and apparently had the ideal childhood with loving parents, siblings and community. Her observations of various events she remembers are laugh out loud funny. It is hard to believe that a child (the author) who did not speak until she was three years old became such a talented storyteller. I highly recommend this book.… (more)
LibraryThing member JessicaStalker
Zippy is just plain loveable. The author is hilarious and sweet and I absolutely adored the author-read audio version. I especially loved that there was nothing crazy or out of the ordinary about her childhood and yet she makes her story seem downright unique. Also the story was a bit sad at times which gave it much more heft, in my opinions. Loved it.… (more)
LibraryThing member ethel55
What a gem of a memoir, I can't believe it had escaped my notice all these years. Haven Kimmel writes of "growing up small" in a very small town in Indiana, where the population always remains at 300, someone always replacing one who leaves. Her memories are funny, bittersweet and strikingly accurate--whether it's the neighborhood bully, the grumpy druggist, a best friend who doesn't talk much--Zippy takes every little bit of minutae and makes it humorous and real. I would have to think that her being that youngest third child, that those much older siblings Melinda and Dan helped keep some of those funny Zippy stories alive as she grew up. From how to name a rooster, a strange love of Kojak, or a shrine to her first bike with streamers and a banana seat, Zippy brought back many great memories of those simply childhood days.… (more)
LibraryThing member readaholic12
Absolutely hilarious true tales of life in a small town, told through the grown up eyes of a magical child nicknamed Zippy.
I'm going to have to read everything haven Kimmel has written, she's that good.
LibraryThing member Chatfemme
May, 2010 Re-read this book recently and loved it just as much. Kimmel takes an ordinary small town little girl's life and animates it with fascinating characters and hilarious or poignant stories of small town life. I love it.
LibraryThing member jepeters333
When Haven Kimmal was born in 1965, Mooreland, Indiana, was a sleepy little hamlet of three hundred people. Nicknamed "Zippy" for the way she would bolt around the house, this small girl was possessed of big eyes and even bigger ears. In this witty and lovingly told memoir, Kimmel takes readers back to a time when small-town America was caught in the amber of the innocent postwar period - people helped their neighbors, went to church on Sunday, and kept barnyard animals in their backyards.… (more)
LibraryThing member megamommy
Cute and entertaining. Somehow her reaction to growing up in a dysfunctional family were very different than mine.
LibraryThing member miaclair
This is the story of Zippy, an imaginative, precocious girl who grew up in the small town of Mooreland, Indiana during the 1960's and 1970's. She tells stories about her family members, childhood friends, eccentric neighbors, and various pets. Through it all, Zippy has a resilience of spirit and a positive attitude that shine through, even in situations that otherwise may not be ideal.

This book is unusual in that it is written with a child's voice, but is interesting and humorous to adults. Haven Kimmel is really able to capture the feeling of being a child, and how even the most minor of events can have major importance. While reading this book, I found myself reciting several sweet and funny passages out loud to various family members. I loved how Zippy shared the stories of the first memory she ever had, the first time she thought about family genes, and the first time she thought about the passage of time. The book is written in very simple prose, but has depth to it as well.

I highly, highly recommend this book. It was an absolute joy, and I loved every minute of it. Do not miss this one!!!!
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Original publication date


Physical description

275 p.; 22 cm


0091882966 / 9780091882969
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