Zucker's first children's book revolves around a familiar figure--the dreaded elderly relative who is ``old and angry and had been that way forever.'' Uncle Carmello's fierceness consists of speaking in gruff, heavily accented English (``Don't-a touch!'' he cries whenever David gets interested in one of the innumerable objects in one of his innumerable collections). When Uncle Carmello takes David marketing in an Italian neighborhood in nearby Boston, however, their shared pleasure in the sights, sounds and special foods overcomes generation gaps and language barriers. But the narration is disingenuous (traveling by Greyhound bus, 10-year-old David is impressed that it has a restroom, ``although when David went to take a rest he was surprised to find a toilet instead of a bed'') and, as such, fails to vivify either the characters or their conflicts. Miller's watercolors, although packed with details and drenched in warm colors, seem equally arrested. Ages 5-9. (Mar.)
K-Gr 3-- Uncle Carmello belongs to an older generation of Italian-Americans. His age, his grumpy personality, and his habit of speaking mostly in Italian or almost incomprehensible English distance him from his young nephew. The summer David is 10, he spends two weeks with the man, who lives in a suburb of Boston. At first the generational and cultural gaps seem insurmountable, until the day Uncle Carmello takes the boy to the Italian community in the North End of the city. There, everybody seems to know his uncle, and stops to chat. Pausing for a minute with a lemon ice before they return home with three bags of groceries, the pair share a quiet moment of satisfaction in the warm sun. Although they drive home in silence, David isn't uncomfortable anymore, and he has grown in his understanding of his heritage. The characters are individualized, but are types recognized in many ethnic households. Watercolor drawings in a realistic style place this story squarely in the '90s. A good choice for children looking for an intergenerational story. --Anna Biagioni Hart, Sherwood Regional Library, Alexandria, VA
ger for reading aloud. Ten-year-old David has been warned about visiting Uncle Carmello, who speaks with such a thick Italian accent that David can hardly understand him ("What-a you do-a downa they? Don't-a touch! Come out-a they!"). He won't let David play on the junk-filled porch or in the overgrown backyard, and David spends most of his time trying to stay out of his uncle's way. But one day, Uncle Carmello takes David for a ride to Prince Street, in Boston's Italian neighborhood, where "it seemed everybody knew Uncle Carmello." David is fussed over, fed, and pinched on the cheeks, all because he is with his uncle. Over a lemon Italian ice, the pair pause for a restful moment before returning home, and in the car, "just before David fell asleep, he felt a rough, old, dry hand gently ruffle his hair." The watercolor illustrations of Boston's Italian section are a real plus for this intergenerational tale, as are the detailed pictures of the shops David and his uncle visit. This is one of those picture books that belong in the hands of a middle grader but might need some help finding their way there.