________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 7 . . . . November 21, 2008

cover Our Corner Grocery Store.

Joanne Schwartz. Illustrated by Laura Beingessner.
Toronto, Tundra Books, 2009.
32 pp., hardcover, $21.99.
ISBN 978-0-88776-868-2.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.

Review by Valerie Nielsen.

***½ /4

Reviewed from Final Pages.


Saturday is my favorite day of the week. I spend every Saturday at my Nonno Domenico and Nonna Rosa's corner grocery store. Nonno Domenico is busy getting ready for his customers.

"Buon Giorno," he says. Are you all set to work, Anna Maria?"

Nona Rosa hugs and kisses me and hurries me into the kitchen behind the store. "You must eat a good breakfast if you are to help your nonno and me all day." We all have jobs at our corner grocery store.


Not that many years ago, little grocery stores, like the one Anna Marie's Italian grandparents run, were liberally sprinkled on corners throughout urban areas. Today (at least in Winnipeg), those little islands of community enterprise are fast disappearing, their places taken by the ubiquitous 7-11 and Mac convenience stores. Our Corner Grocery Store is a charming piece of nostalgia told from the point of view (and in the voice) of five year-old Anna Maria, granddaughter of Nonna Rosa and Nonno Domenico.

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     The young narrator is proud of her role as a helper in her grandparents’ store. Throughout the day, she watches as customers of all shapes and sizes and ages come and go. Anna Maria's jobs include keeping the rows of vegetables neat, sorting out the bread, and stirring the pot of vegetables for Nonna Rosa as she makes dinner. Her keen observations provide the textual backdrop for Laura Beingessner's charming illustrations. The artist has used bold colours for her lovingly detailed pictures and done a splendid job of evoking the urban environment that (one hopes) still continues to nourish small local businesses. As the publisher claims, Our Corner Grocery Store is indeed "a picture book that celebrates local shops and building communities."

     Author Joanne Schwartz has written her story in the present tense, capturing Anna Maria's voice perfectly. Schwartz’s experience as a children's librarian has surely proved a great asset in creating Our Corner Grocery Store. Young listeners will enjoy hearing the book read aloud as well as poring over the pictures to identify items found on the shelves of Nonna and Nonno's little shop. Given that Our Corner Grocery Store is Schwartz's first children's book, librarians, teachers and parents can look forward with some eagerness to her next endeavor.

Highly Recommended.

Valerie Nielsen, a retired teacher-librarian, lives in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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