Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Review of One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street by Joanne Rocklin

Rocklin, Joanne.  One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street.  Amulet, 2011.

Three girls, one boy, a mute little brother and his caretaker, an old lady who has lived on Orange Street forever, and a mysterious man in a green car who used to live there a long time ago - these are the character of One Day...  Oh, and there's a cat, a dog, a macaw, a mouse (or is that a baby rat?), and the tiniest baby hummingbird ever.

And of course the orange tree, under whose beneficent branches people bury valuable items and have wonderful ideas and make friends.

Though the book takes place during one day and part of another, the story bounces back in time to previous residents of Orange Street and then back to our current characters in an effortless way, so that the story doesn't feel rushed or compressed.  In fact, there's a summery feeling of timelessness to the story - it could almost take place anywhere or any time.  And yet we're anchored to a very definite place - Los Angeles - and time - now, 'cause when else could a dreadlocked young man be serving as a little boy's babysitter?

There isn't a strong central plot but rather lots of little bits of life - buried things are found, a bird is rescued, a girl comes to terms with her mom's pregnancy, a man reminisces about his father and little brother, a boy dreams of wowing his crush with a magic trick.  It's testament to Rocklin's skill with language and her ease with the way kids and adults think and speak that this is such a compelling, warm, and funny book from start to finish.  It sounds super corny, but I promise it isn't.  It's supremely satisfying, and you might even cry, but it's not the slightest bit corny.

My only tiny quibble is one I often have with these timeless books - I hate it when parents are referred to as Mr. or Mrs. So-and-So.  Maybe in some - or even most - parts of the USA, kids call their friends' parents by their last names.  But in LA, even back in the 70s when I was a kid, we didn't - and for sure it doesn't happen now in a neighborhood like Orange Street.  When the narrator calls a mom Mrs. Perkins, it feels hopelessly dated.  Okay, rant over.

Highly recommended for kids who like neighborhood tales like Allison McGhee's Julia Gillian books.

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