Monday, July 6, 2009

26 Fairmount Avenue

26 Fairmount Avenue is the first in an autobiographical series by children's author Tomie dePaola. The story begins with the hurricane of 1938, continues through dePaola's kindergarten debut and concludes with his move to a new house. DePaola details slices of life, writing in the first person point of view. He describes everyday events children can relate to (like going to kindergarten for the first time) and makes cultural references children will be interested in. DePaola's reaction to seeing the first Walt Disney movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, made me laugh. Many of the other episodes are funny too, such as the time he and his grandma were tied into chairs and ate too many "chocolates."

DePaola makes a point to speak directly to the reader by using parentheses or additional explanation. For example, when he uses the phrase "out in the sticks" he follows by saying, "That meant way out where not many people lived. There wasn't even a real street." DePaola's voice, as well as his realistic illustrations that support the text on every page, make this book a perfect fit for beginning readers who are transitioning to chapter books.

DePaola grew up in a Catholic, Irish-Italian family, and makes lots of references to God, religion, and prayer throughout the series. In 26 Fairmount Avenue, he does mention some specifically Catholic traditions, such as sprinkling with holy water. When Tomie and his mother are worried about their new house, dePaola writes, "Aunt Nell told me that if you wanted something really important, you could ask your guardian angel, and as long as it wasn't a bad thing, you'd probably get it. I figured now was the perfect time to talk to my guardian angel. And guess what! My guardian angel did come to the rescue." He also includes a charming illustration of the manger scene his mother placed on the mantle at Christmas.

What I Like: I love the wholesome, conversational tone of the book, as well as the loving portrayal of Tomie's relationships with his grandparents and other relatives. I also love the illustrations. As a Caldecott Honor-winning artist, dePaola perfectly captures the essence of each page in simple, black-and-white sketches. I especially love the first two pages, where dePaola gives us portraits of his parents, relatives and neighbors.

I also like the historical references that become more present as the series progresses. (The series begins in 1938 and takes us through dePaola's grade-school years and World War II.) These books provide a child's insight into history in an interesting and authentic manner.

What I Dislike: Nothing. The books could be a bit slow-moving for some since they detail everyday life, as opposed to dramatic action sequences.

Overall Rating: Very Good

Age Appeal: 7-10

Publisher Info: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1999; ISBN: 0-399-23246-X ; Hardcover, $13.99

Buy it Now at in paperback for $5.49

OR Buy it at in paperback for $6.99.

Special Info: 26 Fairmount Avenue won the Newbery Honor Award in 2000. The book is also available in hardcover at

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Loretta said...

Hi, Ladies,

Just popped in to see what you've been up to and you have certainly been busy. You've done an awesome job on the new design. I love it! And I love that you've added books for older kids. You're sure to reach more families that way. Keep up the great work. God bless your mission.

Miss you all,


Kristina said...

Loretta, how good to hear from you! More changes are in the works...keep an eye out!