Showing posts with label Department Stores. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Department Stores. Show all posts

10.03.2011

Entrepreneurial City: The Doll Shop Downstairs


Before I moved to New York 10 years ago, I thought the idea of living above a store was so old fashioned. Wasn't that what Nellie's family did in Little House on the Prairie? No one does that anymore, right? Wrong. Although, most people don't live above or behind their own business these days (they commute, I guess), Yona Zeldis McDonough's The Doll Shop Downstairs takes us back to a time, when such a thing was not uncommon. In this case, the store is a doll repair shop, and what girl wouldn't love to live above a doll shop?

McDonough writes in an afterward that her inspiration came from the real life story of Madame Alexander. The fictional family in her story are Russian Jewish immigrants. The three daughters love to play with the expensive dolls who are waiting for repairs. However, when WWI begins, their father finds he can no longer obtain the necessary parts to repair broken dolls because all the parts come from Germany. Instead, the family works together to design and make their own, "limited edition" dolls, which are then spotted by a buyer from FAO Schwartz. 

The city is very important to the girls' story and McDonough splendidly conveys a detailed sense of place throughout the story. The family lives in the Lower East Side, and there are many references to the kinds of sights and places they see on a daily basis and for special treats. The "packed narrow streets," "crammed with shops, horses, wagons, pushcarts and crowds of people" are contrasted with the wide streets of Fifth Avenue lined with fancy, upscale shops. Moreover, the girls are exposed to a variety of different types of people -- one of the best things about living in the city.

This book is doubly interesting because it seamlessly incorporates, without being didactic, the historical moment in which the action occurs. Small details play a large part in establishing the world the girls live in. I wonder how my son would feel if I sent him to school with a lunch made of "rye bread spread with horseradish, a cold boiled potato, and apple." The family's economic situation changes with the start of the war, the mother must take in work and the girls try to think of ways to earn money. But the girls apply their boundless energy and creativity to help move their family forward.

McDonough has written solid book, with much to recommend it. Heather Maione's black and white illustrations are perfectly suited to the time period. The characters are appealing, the family, even in difficult times, sticks together and the overall tone is positive.  Early chapter book readers will enjoy this one and younger ones should have no difficulty following it as a read aloud.


Want More?
Visit the author's website.
Read a comprehensive review at Truth, Praise and Help.
Coming Soon!!! The Cats in the Doll Shop.

9.15.2011

Tourist City: Amy Elizabeth Explores Bloomingdales

Amy Elizabeth Explores Bloomingdale'sActually, Amy Elizabeth never gets to explore Bloomingdale, but as compensation she sees everything in the city except the famous department store!

E. L. Konigsburg, of The Mixed of Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler fame has crafted a charming picture book. The titular character in Amy Elizabeth Explores Bloomingdales has come to New York City to visit her grandmother. Every morning grandma promises they will go to Bloomies, but they are sidetracked by other adventures which take them to Chinatown, the theater, the laundromat, and introduce the young visitor to bagels and lox, snow boots and hot chocolate at Rumplemeyer's (now I suppose that is replaced by Serendipity 3).

I like the way this is not your standard "tour of the city". True, the pair do visit some major landmarks, but we also get to see the unique characteristics of seemingly mundane life. For example, when grandma needs tea, she doesn't go to the supermarket, she goes to exciting and colorful Chinatown. When she wants a sandwich, she goes to Carnegie Deli. Plus, I always like books which portray positive relationships between grandchildren and their grandparents.

However, by far my favorite characteristic of this book is that every time Amy Elizabeth has a New York experience she compares it to her own life in Houston.  When Amy Elizabeth, our narrator, sees a protest march she comments that in Houston, "when people march and carry signs, there is also a band, and it is a parade." In Houston, the newspaper is thrown into a driveway, you don't pick one up on the street corner. I've never been to Houston, so I can't speak to the truth of Amy Elizabeth's observations 20 years after this book was written, but no doubt, they will ring true for many small town or suburb dwellers. How fun to sit down with this book and ask your child to make her own comparisons and contrasts!

Konigsburg is author and illustrator (I never knew she was an illustrator!) and her colorful paintings will draw you into the experience while Amy Elizabeth decidedly does not explore Bloomingdales.

Enjoy your visit.

Want More?
Read another blogger's review.
Read books in which the characters actually make it inside a city department store: Natalie and Naughtily, Milly and the Thanksgiving Parade and, of course, Courdroy.

Big Kid says: Can you make me some hot chocolate?

2.25.2011

Shopping City: Natalie and Naughtily

Natalie & NaughtilyWhen I was a kid the big city department store was a place of wonder. So much stuff! So many new and interesting things to be explored! What could be more intriguing than roaming unattended around the many, many floors of the high style department store? Living in one, perhaps?

In Vincent X. Kirsch's Natalie & Naughtily the eponymous twin girls live on the top floor of the fictitious big city department store, Nopps. One day Natalie and Naughtily decide to help out at the store. On each floor familiar department store goods and services are given whimsical twists. Would you like to sample Mischief #5? Try out the new-and-improved-automatic-flying-rainbow-making-umbrella? If so, Natalie and Naughtily can help you. Or maybe not... the customer service line grows longer and longer and the two girls "help out".

The story is fun; maybe not outstanding, but not every book can be, right? I thought, from the title, that the story would focus on the differences between the two girls. It was mentioned in the first few pages, but then pushed aside during the journey up to the top of the store. I was reminded a bit of Eloise, although of course Eloise is in a hotel -- but the idea of mischievous girls roaming around in a splendid big city high rise business, in which they also happen to live. Like Eloise, it's an unusual living arrangement, which looks so enticing to us outsiders. And also like Eloise there are no parents present, but they chat it up with the department store personnel (who have great descriptive names like Mr. Iceberger and Mr. Spygoggle.).

What really makes this book enjoyable are the wonderfully detailed illustrations. The portray just how fantastical department stores might look to children. Most of the illustrations are inside the store, but there are several which clearly set the action within the big city. Adventure inside and out! One of my favorites was a picture of the two girls standing in the park with the the city buildings behind them. It's reminiscent of Central Park, of course.

I'm not big on shopping, but a trip to Nopps would be a delight.

Want more?
Check out the Amazon page, which has 4 two page spreads to view.
The official website has fun tidbits about secret facts and hidden games in the book.
Visit the author's blog. (He was just at Books of Wonder, and I missed it!)
Don't miss the fun Facebook page that the twins keep! (If my link doesn't work, you can find a link here)

Big Kid says: I like the toy department the best.

11.19.2010

Festive City: Millie and the Thanksgiving Day Parade

Milly And The Macy's Parade (Scholastic Bookshelf: Holiday)Mom says:
Okay, I admit it. I find most books about Thanksgiving a bit... shall we say... tedious. But I enjoyed this one, and not just because of the noses.

Even if you don't live in New York City, you have undoubtedly seen all or part of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on the television. Most New Yorkers watch it that way, anyhow... what a zoo! Although based on factual events surrounding the parade's beginning in 1924, Shana Corey's Millie and the Thanksgiving Day Parade is about the fictional Millie, a young Polish immigrant, whose father works for Mr. Macy. Millie notices that immigrant families are feeling sad around the holiday season as they miss the traditions of their homelands. The spunky girl encourages Mr. Macy, whom she sees as the most important man in America, to use his powers for good and host a giant street party, and the rest, as they say... is history.

It is fun to look through Brett Helquist's illustrations, which are festive and evoke the period nicely; his drawn characters are visually appealing with terrific noses, and decidedly un-saccharine, a quality I value greatly. The parade looks like a fabulous party, despite the lack of gigantic balloons -- one even this crowd phobic mom, might like to attend.

Although this is a fictional account (Mr. Macy actually died in 1877!), there is an author's note at the end to fill in the blanks. Just as the first Thanksgiving was the coming together of Native Americans and Pilgrims, so too, the Macy's parade was a collaboration between native New Yorkers and recent immigrants. If you're tired of books about turkeys and feasting I recommend you pick up this book.

Big Kid says: That looks fun!
Little Kid says: Whoooo! (That's his elephant noise. There is an elephant in the parade.)
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