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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Laundry Day, written and illustrated by Maurie J. Manning. Clarion, Thomas Allen & Son. 2012. $17.99 ages 5 and up

"Hello, mister.
Did you lose this?
Now, what would I do
with a blanket so small?
Thanks for grabbing my hat,
sonny! Maybe the blanket
belongs to the noisy little fella
who's howlin' all the time?"

If you want a trip to New York City in an earlier time, check out this gorgeous book. It's great fun, and filled with images that are memorable and sure to encourage discussion.

It's tough to make money when your job is shining shoes, and most of your neighbors are trying to earn enough to put food on the table. The streets are filled with horses and carts, the skies with laundry. It's wash day!

As our young hero seeks his fortune with those who people the streets, he becomes quite disillusioned. It seems no one has money to buy his services. Sitting on a curb with his head and broken heart in his hands, his kitten at his side, he looks up to see a pigeon drop a flowing red scarf down on him. It boost his spirits and causes him to look for its source.

Above him he sees only a distant bird and lines of laundry flying in the breeze. Determined to find the scarf's owner, he begins his ascent, using boxes, balconies, laundry lines, ladders and drainpipes. His feline companion never leaves his side. The search takes him on a multicultural adventure. A Chinese woman offers a mooncake and makes a suggestion as to who might be the owner., he's on to the next place, always helpful and learning something new about his neighbors.

It doesn't belong to the Ukrainian lady with the squawking baby, or the Italian organ grinder with the mischievous monkey, or the Polish sisters who would love to use it for their tea party. Will he ever find its owner? Along the way he helps where he can, learns a few new words, partakes of his neighbors' hospitality and finally finds the most grateful owner. Happy now, he returns to the street in a far less circuitous way, only to have another scarf float down to him. Perhaps it will boost his business, make him more noticeable!

The illustrations will hold attention from beginning to end for all who share this book. The graphic design holds great appeal, the ever-changing perspectives offer a real sense of adventure. The young man's ability to scale walls, thin laundry lines and balconies are sure to elicit some 'oohs' and 'aahs' as he travels from one apartment to the next, always willing to help while continuing his search. I'm still poring over the details on my third time through it. I love this book!

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