Angel City

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Overview

Old man Joseph never imagined a family could start this way. When he finds a baby abandoned on a lonely L.A. street, he vows to raise it as his own. He’s an old farmer and knows nothing of parenting, even less about raising a Mexican baby.Yet Joseph keeps his promise and with time he realizes that even in the darkest barrio, there is a world to explore, songs and stories to be shared. Even in the darkest barrio, there is love.

Illustrated by Caldecott-Honor Medal winner Carol ...

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Overview

Old man Joseph never imagined a family could start this way. When he finds a baby abandoned on a lonely L.A. street, he vows to raise it as his own. He’s an old farmer and knows nothing of parenting, even less about raising a Mexican baby.Yet Joseph keeps his promise and with time he realizes that even in the darkest barrio, there is a world to explore, songs and stories to be shared. Even in the darkest barrio, there is love.

Illustrated by Caldecott-Honor Medal winner Carol Byard and beautifully told by Tony Johnston, Angel City is a moving tribute to the strength of family no matter its form.

Author Biography: Tony Johnston lives in California.

Carole Byard lives in Maryland.

An old black man finds a baby abandoned in a dumpster and raises him in a rough Los Angeles neighborhood to know both African American and Mexican American ways.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Joseph, an elderly African American living in Los Angeles, finds an abandoned Mexican baby lying in a dumpster. He mutters to himself, “Angel City, where is the love?” and decides to raise the child as his own. He names him José. Joseph changes his life completely to provide and care for José. He learns about Mexican culture, so he can share it with the boy, but he also teaches José African American culture. Because Joseph wants José to hear the song of wind blowing through corn, he plants corn in an abandoned lot near his apartment. José befriends a boy named Chucho, and as soon as the corn grows, they start selling it on the side of the road. Then, tragedy strikes. Chucho gets killed by stray fire from a drive-by shooting. José reaches his tenth birthday and mourns the death of his friend. Joseph hugs his son in a colorful, green cornfield that used to be a junk-filled lot in Los Angeles. This book is based on a true story. Byard’s vibrant paintings contribute to an already powerful work. The illustrations realistically portray José from infancy to age ten. This book tells a touching story of acceptance, understanding, and love, even in the face of horrific events. This book would be an excellent story to share with a social studies class. However, the mature subject matter and some harsh language require discretion. Reviewer: Josh Crawford
School Library Journal
Gr 1-5-"Where's the angels? Where's the love?" This is the haunting refrain underscoring this fictional account based on a newspaper story about an old man who found a newborn in a Los Angeles Dumpster. Johnston's lyrical, free-verse narrative describes how Joseph, an African American, hears "a whimper frail as life" and discovers a Mexican infant. Joseph seeks help from neighbors to unlock the mysteries of baby care and to learn Mexican songs and recipes while sharing the tales and flavors of his own heritage. The bond between him and Juan deepens over time and their traditions mingle. When the child is six, they plant corn in a vacant lot and he makes friends with another boy, Chucho. Then Chucho is shot and dies. While the love Joseph wonders about is recognized and felt, so is the loss. The comfort of his affection and the beauty of nature shine through Byard's impressionistic acrylics, helping to mitigate the challenging (and unfortunately, believable) circumstances. Father and infant son are bathed in lamplight, as Joseph's tender gaze and large brown arms cradle the lighter-skinned baby. The dawn glows with swirling peach strokes and soothing lavenders amid homelessness and bullet-marked walls. Those seeking stories depicting nontraditional families or realistic tales of urban life will find a poignant portrait within these pages.-Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In a Los Angeles seemingly devoid of angels, one old man makes a step toward municipal redemption when he adopts a baby he finds abandoned in a dumpster. Based on a true story, Johnston's lyrical prose poem develops the loving relationship between old Joseph and Juan, the former an African-American from Georgia, the latter the little Mexican boy he's determined to raise in both cultures. Accordingly, old Joseph takes cooking lessons from Latina neighbors and tells the little boy stories he learned from his elders. Together they take a vacant lot and turn it into a cornfield so Juan will "know the song of corn." Underlying everything is the old man's fear that the violence that has overtaken Los Angeles will find Juan, a fear that bears bitter fruit when Juan is nine and his best friend is killed in a drive-by shooting. Byard's bright, loose acrylics present the relationship year by year, the care in old Joseph's face contrasting with the compact energy of the growing Juan. A quieter exploration of the toll inner-city violence takes on the innocent is hard to imagine, nor a lovelier. (author's note) (Picture book. 5-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399234057
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 6/8/2006
  • Pages: 40
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD650L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.40 (w) x 10.28 (h) x 0.40 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2006

    Warmth Love and Light

    Another tender, sensitive and beautiful book by Carole Byard. The love tumbles across the page. The light and colors of southern California are exquisitly captured in the pastel pictures. A wonderful story based in truth. Just delightful.

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