________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 21 . . . . June 20, 2003


Morning Glory Monday.

Arlene Alda. Illustrated by Maryann Kovalski.
Toronto, ON: Tundra, 2003.
32 pp., cloth, $22.99.
ISBN 0-88776-620-X.

Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 4-8.

Review by Helen Norrie.

** /4

Reviewed from f&g’s.


Grumpy Mrs. Grimaldi thanked her customers every day
She said “hello” and “thank you” even if they couldn’t pay.
Old Mr. Shapiro stopped selling his pickles
He brought a brass trumpet to play for his nickels.

Maryann Kovalski’s delightful illustrations add charm and humour to this rather simple tale which takes place in New York City in the 1930's. Set in the impoverished Lower East Side, this picture book tells the story of a little girl who wants to help her mother who is desperately homesick for her home in Italy. When the little girl wins a package of seeds at an amusement park on Coney Island, she plants them in a window box outside their apartment. Like Jack in the Beanstalk’s magic beans, her seeds turn into a morning glory vine which spreads not only over their whole tenement but up and down the street until the whole neighbourhood is transformed. And not only the buildings but also the people experience a feeling of joy and happiness. Her mother takes delight in caring for the flowers, and the long hot summer becomes one of enchantment.

     Arlene Alda is the wife of actor Alan Alda. Living in New York and Los Angeles, she has written several other books for children including Arlene Alda’s 1 2 3 and Hurry Granny Annie. While the story line here is simple, it would make a good read-aloud story for ages 4-8 or a suitable book for beginning readers of the same age. Towards the end of the book, she lapses into rhyming couplets which don’t always scan evenly but may be appreciated by young readers.

     Maryann Kovalski has used the Lower East Side of New York as the location for artwork in an earlier book, Rivka’s First Thanksgiving, which won the Sydney Taylor Award. Her work has also been seen in such books as Wheels on the Bus and Brenda and Edward. In Morning Glory Monday, Kovalski captures the spirit of the Lower East Side, with its teeming activity, abundant humanity and colourful ethnicity.

     For a different view of life in this neighbourhood, set twenty years earlier, readers are directed to Carol Matas’ latest juvenile novel, Rosie in New York City: Gotcha! written for 10-12 year olds.


Helen Norrie has worked as a teacher-librarian and a teacher of Children’s Literature. She writes a regular column, “Children’s Books,” for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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

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