The Mona Lisa of Salem Street

Jan Marino, Author
Jan Marino, Author Little Brown and Company $14.95 (155p) ISBN 978-0-316-54614-0
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Marino (For the Love of Pete) explores the meaning of family through a sentimental tale of orphans who find a true home with their widowed grandfather. Ever since their parents died in an unexplained accident, Nettie, 12, and brother John Peter, 8, have been shunted from one relative to another, always winding up with mean-spirited Grandma Bessie. Fed up, she sends them from Ohio to Boston to live with their grandfather. Far from being the rich owner of a flower emporium, as Bessie has described him, Pa is the struggling proprietor of a funeral parlor, bankrupted through the irresponsibility of his flighty sister-in-law Aleta. However, he wholeheartedly embraces his newfound grandchildren and introduces them to Italian culture, Boston style. After two crises--one minor and one major--Nettie learns that it's safe to let down her guard and love Pa after all. The emotions ring true but the few contemporary touches--a portable phone, a reference to President Clinton--seem tacked on in a story that has a long-ago feel to it. As long as readers don't question why Nettie has never seen hot tapwater--and aren't irritated by the stereotypical depiction of Pa--they should enjoy this warm if simplistic novel. Ages 10-up. (Apr.)
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