Folk of varying degree of eccentricity people Gordon's (When JFK Was My Father) intermittently down-to-earth and outlandish novel, narrated by the decidedly down-to-earth Jason. When his recently widowed aunt, who makes theater costumes for a living, invites him to spend the summer, the boy questions her motive: "Maybe because she felt sorry for me, an only child with busy parents, not so many friends, not good at things." Jason immediately feels at home in his aunt's tiny apartment-littered with fake fur as a result of her commission to create 30 gorilla costumes-and he likes the music that floats from the nearby park. She explains that the park's mysterious owner, Otto Pettingill, a talented musician, plays various instruments and amplifies the music via speakers in the park's trees. The park offers refuge of various sorts to the characters who befriend Jason. These include Gareth, a take-charge kid who recruits Jason to play for his baseball team; Pettingill's wild-tempered ward, Liesl, who spends her days drawing chalk portraits on the park's sidewalks; Mitch Bloom, a flower vendor who lives in an expansive tree house; and Pettingill himself, who teams up with Jason to foil a pair of villains who want to turn the park into a mall. Though the plot occasionally meanders and contains extraneous detail, this story is often funny, and Jason's gradual discovery of his own worth is satisfying. Ages 8-12. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Willy spends the summer with his Aunt Bridget. While she makes gorilla costumes for the local production, Willy meets the characters that live around Gill Park—Mitch who lives in a tree, the rebellious Liesl who wants to be adopted and accepted by a "normal" family, Belle Vera, the eccentric French teacher who takes care of Liesl, and Mr. Pettingill, the park owner who pipes music over loudspeakers into the park. Mr. Pettingill is also Liesl's guardian and feels he has failed her when she doesn't learn to read and wants to attend a regular school. He goes into hiding and let's his evil lawyer arrange for Liesl's adoption and to sell the park. Willy and his friends are devastated and work to find a way to save the park. Willy learns where Mr. Pettingill is hiding and that the lawyer is scheming to turn the park into a mall. Mr. Pettingill returns home, lets Mitch adopt Liesl, and once again pipes music into the park. The lawyer is definitely the villain in this melodrama and the damsels in distress (both Liesl and the park) are saved by the hero, Willy. 2003, Holiday House, Rose
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-Willy Wilson's whole life changes when his recently widowed Aunt Bridget, a somewhat unconventional costume designer, invites her timid, sheltered nephew to spend his summer vacation with her. Everything in Gloria is different, and, most surprisingly, Willy finds that he is different, too. His aunt thinks he's funny, he makes friends easily, and he even plays a decent game of baseball. While Aunt Bridget sews 30 gorilla suits, Willy plays ball in Gill Park and gets to know the colorful characters who live in and around it. When Otto Pettingill, its eccentric owner, unwittingly agrees to sell the park to a mall developer and allows his orphaned charge, Willy's new friend Liesl, to be adopted by an unsuitable couple, the two children save the park and her future. By September, the seventh grader is richer in ways he never imagined, and he and Gill Park are forever connected. The protagonist's first-person narration is both humorous and insightful, enabling readers to experience his exciting summer firsthand. An action-filled bildungsroman with quirky, unforgettable characters.-Barbara Auerbach, New York City Public Schools Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Willy’s aunt, a costumer, invites him to her city apartment for the summer as she sews 30 gorilla costumes. The apartment is adjacent to Gill Park, owned by eccentric millionaire musician, Otto Pettingill. Willy believes that the owner’s music, amplified throughout the park, gives the space a special energy that turns the shy and uncoordinated seventh-grader into a baseball player, improves his violin playing, and allows him to befriend many unusual people who live around the park, including Mr. Pettingill. When he discovers a plan to sell the park, Willy and his friends outsmart Pettingill’s sleazy lawyer and save it from development. At this feel-good point, Gordon could have stopped. But she makes the plot overly long by further developing certain strands: baseball, friendship, self-esteem, dealing with death, anti-smoking, and young people’s relationships with adults. The story has many light-hearted, playful, but sometimes illogical elements: for example, Willy inherits the valuable Gill Park upon the death of Mr. Pettingill. All in all, this offers good, clean fun, a rare commodity in many contemporary middle-grade novels. (Fiction. 9-12)