Kicking off a series by the same name, dePaola's effervescent chapter book recounts some memorable moments from the author's early years, surrounded by loving family members and friends. Fans will recognize a few of the cast members from the author's various autobiographical picture books. Organized as an engaging pastiche of memories from 1938 to 1939, the story's primary focus is the snafu-plagued construction and landscaping of the dePaola family's ""first and only house,"" in Meriden, Conn. Within this clever framework, other diverting vignettes surface: during the hurricane of 1938, dePaola's mother sprinkles holy water on a terrified neighbor for protection; young Tomie generously shares ""chocolates"" he finds hidden in the bathroom with his Nana Upstairs (they turn out to be laxatives); and on the first day of kindergarten, when he learns that reading is not taught until first grade, he announces, ""Fine, I'll be back next year,"" and heads home. DePaola successfully evokes the voice of a precocious, inquisitive five-year-old everyone would want to befriend. Charming black-and-white illustrations animate the scenes and add a period flare, including a photo album-like assemblage of the characters' portraits at the book's start. Readers will also appreciate a glimpse of the artist's early debut as he draws life-size images of his family on the plasterboard walls in his new house. DePaola seems as at home in this format as he did when he first crossed the threshold of 26 Fairmount Avenue, an address readers will eagerly revisit in the series' subsequent tales. Ages 7-11. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/05/1999 Release date: 04/01/1999 Genre: Children's
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