Friday, September 19, 2008

The Bells of Bleecker Street

Browsing the shelves of our Lower School library inevitably leads to finding some gems. From the slightly creepy Baby Island, to the magical Gone Away Lake, I usually end up discovering some children's books that may not have otherwise ended on my radar. This time my find was The Bells of Bleecker Street. Since my school is located on the corner of Bleecker Street, I was automatically drawn to this title, and I was happily reading about Joey and his antics over the weekend.

Joey Enrico is a neighbourhood boy. He and his pals hang around the Greenwich Village area. Their main social activities center around The Church of Our Lady of Pompeii, the pushcarts along Bleecker and Sheridan Square. Joey's dad is off fighting in World War II, and Joey is missing him fiercely. He tries to help out in his father's framing shop and stay out of trouble.

But trouble seems to find Joey. Especially when he is hanging out with his friend Pete "the Squeak" Ryan. One day, Joey and Pete decide to go into Our Lady of Pompeii to see the new statue of Saint John. After seeing the new statue, the boys go to see the old one, the one that Joey was baptized under. When the toe of the old Saint John breaks off under Joey's fingertips, Joey panics. The ever mischievous Pete, however, convinces Joey that Saint John's toe should be treated like a rabbit's foot. Joey should keep it for good luck. After all, couldn't Joey use some luck?

So, Joey puts the toe in his pocket and hits the streets. Does his luck change? Maybe a little bit, but Joey is wracked with guilt about his theft.

Valenti Angelo's The Bells of Bleecker Street is a wonderful example of children's literature from the 1940s. Well written chapters are almost stories within the story. Joey and his pals are all squeaky clean family boys who help out around the neighbourhood and generally do the right thing. Joey's Italian family's heritage is examined through everyday activities, and it's interesting to note the differences put forth concerning Pete's Irish family. This is sweet storytelling that would make a great read aloud.

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