Mary Kay Kroeger and Louise Borden's Paperboy belongs in a subcategory of urban picture books I like to call "books about enterprising, hard-working and independent city kids of previous generations." (It's a long title for a subcategory, I know!) The paperboy on the street corner shouting "Extra! Extra!" is one of those disappeared phenomenons you really wish still existed but the modern technological world makes impossible. Like daily milk deliveries in glass bottles (I wonder if there is an urban picture book about that?). But I find there is something comforting about reading book in which such things still existed. Is that just me or do others feel that way, too?
Anyhow, back to the book. In 1927 Cincinnati, the whole city is gearing up for a big boxing match. The paperboys are all placing bets and Willie's working class neighborhood is backing Jack Dempsey. But when Jack Dempsey loses, Willie is the only paperboy who shows up for work. Even though no one wants to buy a paper with the lousy news spread across its front, Willie's boss rewards him for his dedication and work ethic by giving him the best corner.
Even though I'm glad my sons won't have to sell papers in order to keep the family from going hungry, it's hard not to like a book about a boy who shows such kind-hearted dedication. The camaraderie of the neighborhood boys is pretty infectious, too and I love books which show kids having independent lives on the city streets.
As usual, Ted Lewin's illustrations shine. I think my favorite must be the night scene in which the cars and streetcars have gathered on the eve of the big fight. Or perhaps the one in which four girls (yes, girls!) are excitedly watching the match. It's hard to choose a favorite, actually. The boxers are always in black and white, while "real life" takes place in color as if to emphasis where the real action of the story lies.
You might wonder that a book about paperboys and boxing in Cincinnati could be so entertaining, we certainly found it to be so. Of course paperboys and boxing are just the vehicles through with a story about family, spirit and the rewards of not giving up shine through. An author's note will fill any non-boxing fans (like me) in on the historical match between Dempsey and Gene Tunney.
Visit Ted Lewin's website (you'll be seeing more of his books on this blog!).
Big Kid says: Why are there no paperboys anymore?