Friday, July 13, 2012

One day and one amazing morning on Orange Street by Joanne Rocklin

I'm finally getting seriously to work on my to read pile...from ALA Midwinter 2011!

This is a slim chapter book, just a little over 200 pages, but it's packed full of emotions and evocative language. Throughout the course of one day and one morning the reader meets a variety of characters who live on Orange Street. Ali, who fights with her bossy friend Leandra and worries about her little brother Edgar, recovering from major surgery. Manny, Edgar's nanny, who gives advice to Robert who has a crush on Ali. Their elderly friend Ethel Finneymaker who grew up on Orange Street. Ethel's old friend's Larry and Pug, whose father was killed in Vietnam. One of them might be the stranger who has returned, putting the orange tree in jeopardy which leads to a brave action by Bunny, who worries about her mom.

As you can see, the focus of this story is on the connections that exist between the people in the neighborhood, the long-ago residents, and possible newcomers. All of these different stories are entwined around the orange tree, the last orange tree on the street which once was an orange grove before the houses were built. An author's note gives some historical information about the orange industry in California, a little background on some of the historical settings, and a recipe for ambrosia. Simple black and white pencil drawings decorate the story, marking out chapters and separating the voices of various protagonists.

The story builds slowly with warmth and feeling, but doesn't shy away from painful emotions - the death of Larry and Pug's father, Robert's worries about growing up and the disintegration of his family, and Leandra's resentment of a new sibling. Although it never falls into the "all kids are the same throughout history, they just wear different clothes" fallace (which I hate) it does show links between the various kids on Orange Street dealing with issues and struggling to handle change as pre-teens.

Verdict: This isn't likely to appeal to readers looking for action or detailed historical fiction, but if you have kids who enjoy character-rich stories where the setting is so strongly built it's a protagonist in its own right, you might have an audience for this title.

ISBN: 9780810997196; Published April 2011 by Amulet/Abrams; ARC received at ALA Midwinter 2011; Purchased for the library

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