cover image Peppe the Lamplighter

Peppe the Lamplighter

Elisa Bartone. HarperCollins, $18.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-688-10268-5

Bartone deftly vivifies a slice of American history--and the immigrant experience--in this touching story of a boy's quest to win his sick father's respect. In New York City's Little Italy at the turn of the century, Peppe must support his eight sisters and cantankerous father. His job as lamplighter takes on mythic proportions as he brings light to the streets--``a small flame of promise for the future''--and eventually drives away the doubts that darken his father's heart. With its evocative descriptions of an earlier era, Bartone's thoughtful, fluid text, while uniquely personal, is universal in scope. Lewin's dramatically rendered watercolors, their grim realism shot through with lamplight, perfectly suit the mood. These detailed street scenes, with their honest faces and authentic period garb, exhibit a cinematic sweep that proves quite remarkable. (Interior scenes, rich in the play of light and shadow, are equally striking.) The story ends on a sentimental note, but the earnest paintings keep it from seeming trite. Ages 6-up. (Apr.)