The Mayor of Central Parkby Avi, Brian Floca
For Oscar, life is good in New York City in the year 1900. He's the Mayor of Central Park -- the greatest place on earth for the squirrels, chipmunks, mice, and other animals who live there. He's the manager of his baseball team, the Central Park Green Sox, and shortstop, too. What could be bad? Plenty, that's what! Big Daddy Duds, jewel thief, all-round thug, and leader of rats, is about to invade the park with five hundred of his closest friends. And when he does, the other animals who live there will be turned out of their homes. Everyone looks to the Mayor to save them, but he may not even be able to save himself from the invaders. The Mayor of Central Park is a rich and fragrant evocation of old New York, with a community of animals who are as lively as characters in a Damon Runyon story, brought to life in a blend of humor and heartbreak that is vintage Avi.
- HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- Library Binding
- Product dimensions:
- 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.77(d)
- Age Range:
- 8 - 12 Years
Read an Excerpt
The Mayor of Central Park
I Start Telling the Tale
Now the way I heard it, this whole loopy story happened in the pearly month of May 1900, right here in the middle of New York City. It's mostly about this gray squirrel who went by the name of Oscar Westerwit.
To look at Oscar Westerwit you might think, hey, just another New York City squirrel. Only thing is, if you said that, you'd be dead wrong. 'Cause the simple scoop is that this here Oscar Westerwit was a full-sized uptown romantic. And when you get an uptown squirrel who's romantic, let me tell you something: You got yourself a story busting to trot itself up Broadway like a tap-dancing centipede.
But you're asking, how come I was able to grab this tale? Well, back in them days I was cub reporter for the Daily Mirror. My beat was Central Park. So, figures, while I'm not in the story, I heard all about it.
Anyway, this Oscar Westerwit, this squirrel I'm talking about, the voters in Central Park used to call him the mayor of Central Park. Which ain't to say he actually was mayor. At the time, the real mayor of New York was Hiz Honor Robert A. Van Wyck, a guy so terrific they named a traffic jam after him.
But the thing of it was, since Oscar knew everybody and everything in the park so well, the voters there called him the mayor.
Now to bump right into the beginning, this yarn started spinning string on the third Friday night in May. That was when Oscar held his regular mayor's monthly open house.
Only first you need to fix yourself a picture of Oscar in your head. I mean, this here was one swell-suited squirrel, dressed up to all nine buttons. He was sporting a light, white cotton suit, with a baby blue bow tie, shined-up shoes and spats, and a ripping red gardenia right there on his jacket lapel.
And his home -- a two-room elm tree apartment in the middle of the park-was just as terrific. There was an easy chair by the window with an actual electric lamp at its side. There was a pile of The Baseball Weekly stacked up along with the New York Tribune. Pictures of his heroes -- Honus Wagner, Roscoe Conklin, and Lillian Russell -- were on the walls, right along with his degree from the City University -- class of 1898.
As for Oscar hisself, he was humming a Broadway show tune and sliding into a tap-dance do-diddle every other step while setting food on the table. You know, like:
My sweetheart's the girl in the moon,
I'm getting to marry her soon.
When all of a sudden, who should come bip-bopping into his room? Sam Peekskill, that's who.
"Hey, Oscar," the rabbit shouted, the way only an excited southpaw rabbit can volume his voice, "Arty Bigalow has gone missing!"
Now what you got to know is, Oscar wasn't just mayor of Central Park. No, sir, he was also the shortstop and manager of the Central Park Green Sox. And a pretty decent player, too.
"Says who?" said Oscar to Sam.
"No one's seen him since day before the day before."
"I'm not worried," said Oscar as he filled a bowl with nuts and crackers and set it by the window.
"How come?" said Sam.
"Sam," said Oscar as he laid out some pretzels and pickles, "no way Arty's going to miss the game. Hey, if we beat the Wall Street Bulls, we're in first place. He knows that. I know that. Everyone knows that. Here, pal, spot down these cucumber sandwiches."
"Sure," said Sam, doing like he was told. "But Oscar," he said, "this Arty, his personal life is one big spicy meatball. What the guys were thinking was, maybe youse should go check his boardinghouse. I mean, that cat's our only pitcher."
Oscar shook his head and plunked a pile of napkins down like he was flashing a royal flush at a Friday night poker game. "Tonight's my open house."
"Hey, Sam," said Oscar. "Come over here."
Sam went to where Oscar was standing by the window.
"See that moon in the sky?" said the squirrel.
"Sure. It's where it's supposed to be, ain't it?"
"Right. But pop your eyes on how the moonlight makes the park hills, lakes, trees, and meadows look like they've been dipped deep in blue light and purple shadow."
"And there -- the Dakota towers are looking like servants on the ready. Now -- listen to those clip-clopping horses and carriages on Fifth Avenue. And over to the West Side -- hear them clanging trolley bells. Got all that?"
"What's all this to do with tomorrow's game?"
"Sam," said Oscar, "this Central Park is ... perfect."
"Yeah, but if Arty --"
"Hey, pal," said Oscar, "Central Park is where I was born, grew up, and live. Central Park is the best beauty in this whole burg."
"Sure, Oscar, but Arty --"
"Hey, come on. Guys like us have been around here long before 1857 when the park was built; long before the Dutch showed up in 1612. Long even before the Lenape Indians named this island Manna-hata."
"Okay," said Sam. "It's great to know all that stuff, but if Arty don't --"
Oscar spread his forepaws wide. "Hey, I love this place!"
"Oscar," said Sam, "you know where a romantic like youse belongs? In a Broadway show, that's where."
"Broadway Oscar, that's me!" And the squirrel did a quick tap-dance double doodle.
"That's cute, Oscar, but I just hope you're right about Arty."
Wasn't long before the apartment was crowded. Some were there for the nuts, pretzels, and talk Oscar laid out deep. But plenty of folks were there asking for his help ...The Mayor of Central Park. Copyright © by Denise Avi. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Avi is the award-winning author of more than seventy-five books for young readers, ranging from animal fantasy to gripping historical fiction, picture books to young adult novels. Crispin: The Cross of Lead won the Newbery Medal, and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle and Nothing But the Truth were awarded Newbery Honors. He is also the author of the popular Poppy series. Avi lives outside Denver, Colorado. You can visit him online at www.avi-writer.com.
Brian Floca's illustrations have appeared in several books by Avi, including the six volumes of the Poppy stories and the graphic novel City of Light, City of Dark. For younger readers, he is the author and illustrator of Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo II as well as the highly praised books Lightship, a Robert F. Sibert Honor Book and ALA Notable Book; The Racecar Alphabet, also an ALA Notable Book; and Five Trucks.
- Date of Birth:
- December 23, 1937
- Place of Birth:
- New York, New York
- University of Wisconsin; M.A. in Library Science from Columbia University, 1964
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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A squirrel named Oscar Westerwit, who¿s the mayor of Central Park, loves baseball. Daddy Duds who¿s the leader of the downtown gang, likes baseball just as much as diamonds and jewels. Daddy Duds and his thugs are trying to take over Central Park. But Oscar and his friends are trying to stop them. Will they be able to save Central Park before it¿s too late? I like this book because Avi makes this book fun and also he makes this book come to life. He can make you see how the characters think and feels. I think that this book is filled with adventure, mystery and of course baseball.
Oscar Westerwit owns Central Park and its very own baseball team, the Green Sox. Everything is peaceful in Oscar¿s domain until Arte Bigalow, famous and talented pitcher on the Green Sox, never turns up on a fateful game of baseball. Then Big Daddy Duds, a rat criminal with a love of diamonds and baseball, arrives with his gang and raises turmoil in Central Park. His gang drives animals out of their homes and even manipulates the local police force in the rat¿s favor. What can Oscar do? Admittedly, my favorite part of this book is the animal fiction aspect of it. In fact, Oscar Westerwit himself is a squirrel. I also thought that it contained a lot of detail, however, Avi did not over-elaborate, so I really felt that I was with Oscar throughout the book. I didn¿t like the way that Arte Bigalow disappears near the beginning of the book and then never reappears again. All in all, the Mayor of Central Park is quite an enjoyable read.