Laundry Day by Maurie J. Manning

Cindy: It’s laundry day in a nineteenth century New York City neighborhood and a red cloth falls from above into the hands of a young, bored shoeshine boy in Laundry Day (Clarion 2012). With no customers awaiting him, he looks up and begins to search for the owner. Climbing crates, scaling pipes, scrambling over balcony railings and even tightrope walking across the laundry lines the boy and an equally agile cat follow suggestions at each stop as to who the likely owner might be. The journey introduces the reader to neighbors from a variety of countries and cultures and there are many suggestions for just what the red cloth might be, including a drappo for an organ grinder’s organ (his monkey and the cat are intrigued by each other).

The red cloth stands out on pages that are more muted in color, and it brought to mind the classic French film, The Red Balloon. You can watch a taste of the film and a NY Times critique here if you are too young to remember it.

 

Lynn:  This was one of my favorites from the 2012 season and there are so many things I like about it.  The story has a comic book style layout with individual panels as well as a dramatic 2 page spread that that sends the focus skyward as the red cloth drifts down.  The humor is delightful and very kid appropriate and mystery itself entwines the reader like the red scarf itself.  Of course the school librarian in me loves the teaching aspects of the book too:  the depiction of the tenements in New York in the early 1900′s and the tremendous sense of the cultural melting pot that New York was in that time.  There ares some nice understated examples of the value of acceptance and willingness to help others.  And who could fail to love that cheeky little shoe-shine boy with the terrific work ethic?  Big portions of the book are wordless but the conversations are full of words from other languages and cultures with a handy “laundry list” provided at the end.  Don’t miss this lovely book in the rush of new 2013 titles.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees.

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