Immigrant City: American Too
This looks like it will be my last immigrant-in-the-city themed book of the month. I have certainly not exhausted the topic, but I am happy to be ending this theme on a high note: American Too.
None of the immigrant-themed books I've written about so far have focused on that perennial symbol of hope for a new life: the Statue of Liberty. It's certainly been in the illustrations of most of the books, but in Elisa Barone's American Too, it is moved to the forefront.
A very young Rosina immigrates to America with her family and the first thing she sees is the Statue of Liberty. Rosina find her beautiful and hopes one day to be as beautiful herself. Growing up in New York City, Rosina starts to value her American life and culture over the Italian one at home. She refuses to speak Italian, sits on her hands when she speaks (to avoid gesturing!) and discards her red coral necklace when the neighborhood girls tease her about being superstitious. In the process she acts like many American teenage girls and yells at her parents. Mon Dieu! When, to her dismay, she is chosen as queen of the Italian festival of San Gennaro she harnesses her admiration of the Statue of Liberty and becomes an Italian-American Queen.
American Too is a high-spirited book with a positive outlook on the immigration experience. Ted Lewin's watercolor illustrations are amazing. I am usually a fan of a less realistic style of illustration for children's books, but his painting serve the book remarkably well. The expressions on the characters faces brilliantly capture the emotions expressed in the story. The city in the book is not nitty-gritty, colors are light, tenement apartments are clean and sunshine is abundant. Apartment interiors and views of city sidewalks will draw you in with their detail. The iron work and stone detailing on the buildings are particularly impressive. Having tried working with watercolor myself, I am always amazed when artists exhibit such control over a naturally uncontrollable medium.
Ignore the two bad customer reviews on Amazon, they completely missed the point of the story. Fortunately, the professional review did not. This would be a great book to read in conjunction with any patriotic holiday.
Bartone and Lewin also collaborated on Peppe the Lamplighter, also about Italian immigrants. I reviewed that book here.
I've also reviewed Lewin's book Stable, set in Brooklyn, and the Lewin-illustrated Paperboy.
Watch this blog for more Lewin illustrated books, because they are coming.