cover image Pearl Moscowitz's Last Stand

Pearl Moscowitz's Last Stand

Arthur A. Levine. HarperCollins Publishers, $14 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-688-10753-6

Pearl Moscowitz, noodle-pudding-maker extraordinaire, takes a militant stand when the city threatens to cut down the last tree on her blighted block. Like a sidewalk storyteller who punctuates the neighborhood news with confidential asides, Levine ( The Boardwalk Princess ) details the dynamics of Pearl's urban street as it is settled by Jewish immigrants and, later, by African Americans, Latinos and Asians. Perhaps the only constant on the block, besides Pearl herself, is a leafy gingko planted in Pearl's mother's day. There the older women gather daily for cards and little picnics (``Matzoh balls and steamed dumplings. Challah and jalapenos''). But when an electric company employee arrives with a big saw, Pearl swings into action, first feeding the would-be woodcutter into near insensibility, the next day stupefying him with endless sheaves of family pictures. The third day, her resources exhausted, she chains herself to the doomed tree. As in Nobiah's Well (reviewed above), Roth exaggerates the characters' proportions, but the effect here is more successful, perhaps because the generous size of this book better accommodates the artist's skewed scales. His animated watercolors portray the goings-on with as much humor and goodwill as does Levine's affectionate text. Ages 4-up. (Sept.)