cover image Guttersnipe


Jane Cutler, , illus. by Emily Arnold McCully. . Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-374-32813-9

A family story inspired Cutler’s (The Birthday Doll ) picture book about the struggles of Jewish immigrants in early-20th-century Canada. After his father dies, Ben’s family has trouble making ends meet, even when Mama works extra hours and Ben’s older siblings work full-time. Eager to help, Ben lands a job tryout with Mr. Green the hatmaker, delivering hat linings to the factory across town, via bicycle. His first run ends in disaster—sending boy, bike and linings tumbling on a busy thoroughfare, and eliciting the name-calling of the book’s title. But Ben’s crash ends up being an epiphany. Cutler’s text effectively captures its setting and a family’s sense of urgency in tough times. Oddly, the author doesn’t explain the term “guttersnipe,” other than noting that Ben knew it was an “ugly word.” McCully’s (Mirette on the High Wire ) watercolor renderings of period clothing, streetcars and colorful storefronts along cobblestone streets give the book a strong sense of place. And her scenes of the rainbow-hued hat linings taking flight are a perfect match for the story’s upbeat ending. Ages 5–8. (May)