Morning Glory Monday

Overview

Life in a tenement during the 1930s is difficult for anyone. No wonder Mama is homesick for the sunny south of Italy, where flowers bloom and the sky is always blue. Her little daughter tries everything to cheer her up, from hand stands and jokes to a trip to Coney Island. Nothing seems to work. But at Coney Island, the child wins a packet of seeds. Although it isn’t the stuffed toy she wanted, it turns out to hold a treasure. When the seeds are planted, they become morning ...

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Overview

Life in a tenement during the 1930s is difficult for anyone. No wonder Mama is homesick for the sunny south of Italy, where flowers bloom and the sky is always blue. Her little daughter tries everything to cheer her up, from hand stands and jokes to a trip to Coney Island. Nothing seems to work. But at Coney Island, the child wins a packet of seeds. Although it isn’t the stuffed toy she wanted, it turns out to hold a treasure. When the seeds are planted, they become morning glories. Their beauty reaches Mama, and everyone else who sees them.

Based on a true episode in New York’s Lower East Side, where the residents of 97 Orchard Street cheered up their bleak homes with morning glories, this is a story with universal appeal. By introducing simple beauty into our daily lives, even the grayest of places, and hearts, can be transformed.

Arlene Alda’s lyrical text is perfectly complemented by Maryann Kovalski’s marvelous art, which evokes the great illustrators of the 1930s.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this quiet novel set in 1893, narrator Lillie struggles to adjust to her mother's death, without much help from her busy father, older brother and unsympathetic housekeeper. At school her performance suffers, and her friendships seem to be weakening. Despite all the conflict, however, the plot moves slowly. Lillie forges a friendship with her quirky neighbor, Miss Frances Willard (a real-life lecturer, suffragist, and president of the Women's Christian Temperance Union). Miss Willard reflects, "In 1877, I spoke in Boston to five thousand people.... A woman who has taught the freshman class at Northwestern University can't be frightened of anything." Readers may be fascinated at some of the beliefs of the period (e.g., Susan B. Anthony is cited as stating that the bicycle "will do more to bring women the vote than anything else could"; a boy quotes his father's opinion that Miss Willard will get "bicycle hands" and consequently "won't be able to hold a thing in either hand"). But although she gains confidence and poise, Lillie remains a bit colorless, eclipsed by her more compelling neighbor. Peck's (How Many Days to America) black-and-white illustrations clarify details about the period, especially the cumbersome fashions of the day. Ages 7-12. (Sept) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Creating a new life in another country can be a very difficult time for many immigrant families, especially in a big city. Morning Glory Monday is a beautifully written story that delicately brings this universal theme to light. A young girl from the Lower East Side of New York City during the 1930's wants to help her mother overcome her loneliness for her native Italy. As she tries to make her Mama smile, she plants a tiny packet of morning glory seeds that end up surrounding the neighborhood in beauty. In addition to making Mama smile again, the flowers act as a catalyst for uniting their entire neighborhood. This picture book story has very little text but the illustrations catapult each page with heartfelt emotion. The change in text from straight dialogue to rhyme at the end of the story seems to add an upbeat transition that also accompanies Mama's newfound hope. 2003, Tundra Books, Ages 4 to 8.
— Mary Forbes
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 3-An Italian-American girl narrates this slice-of-life tale set in a tenement in 1930s New York City. When her mother becomes homesick for her family and country, the child and her father try to brighten the woman's spirits. They take a trip to Coney Island, where the girl wins some morning glory seeds and plants them in window boxes on the fire escape. As they grow, they magically begin to engulf the neighborhood and the city, lightening her mother's mood and spreading joy throughout the community. Alda was inspired by real events that took place at this location, now the home of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. While she jarringly lapses into verse on the last three pages, the cheerful tone and fanciful plot will enchant readers. Kovalski's charcoal illustrations accurately reflect the story's mood and bustling street scenes. An entertaining addition for larger collections, specifically those with an interest in titles on the difficulties of adjusting to a new homeland.-Rachel G. Payne, New York Public Library Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Mama, living on New York’s Lower East Side in the 1930s with her husband and young daughter, is homesick for her native Italy. One summer day, to cheer her up, the family visits Coney Island, where the little girl wins a packet of seeds. Though the girl is disappointed in this less-than-hoped-for prize, she’s astonished to discover that when the flowers eventually grow and proliferate, Mama’s spirits bloom along with them. Soon the whole neighborhood is transformed by sky-blue bits of beauty; there are blossoms everywhere, and everyone’s mood improves. Based on a true episode when residents of a Lower East Side neighborhood dressed up their bleak homes and lives with morning glories, the tale is as fragile as a flower; this Monday will likely be forgotten by Tuesday. However, Kovalski’s muted art makes the time and place come alive, her tenement neighborhoods bustle with energy and appeal, and her characters’ faces are most expressive. (Picture book. 4-7)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780887766206
  • Publisher: Tundra
  • Publication date: 9/30/2003
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.25 (w) x 10.27 (h) x 0.37 (d)

Meet the Author

Arlene Alda is an award-winning photographer and writer whose work has appeared in Life, Vogue, and People and in numerous galleries. Her books for children include Sheep, Sheep, Sheep, Help Me Fall Asleep; Arlene Alda’s 1 2 3; and Hurry Granny Annie. A native New Yorker, Arlene Alda and her husband, actor Alan Alda, divide their time between New York and Los Angeles.

Maryann Kovalski is the author and illustrator of many, many books. She attended the School of Visual Arts in New York and now lives in Toronto.

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