cover image What Zeesie Saw on Delancey Street

What Zeesie Saw on Delancey Street

Elsa Okon Rael. Simon & Schuster, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-80549-3

Rael's (Marushka's Egg) memories of childhood in a tenement on Manhattan's Lower East Side inspire this atmospheric picture book. As a treat for her seventh birthday, Zeesie is permitted to attend a ""package party"" with her parents and receives her very own dollar bill. She excitedly dresses up and scurries past the tailor shop, the chicken yard and ""probably the biggest movie theater in the whole world"" to reach the party's music-filled ballroom. Yiddish songs and dancing serve as background for a fund-raising auction where families bid on packages of tasty treats. In the middle of this festive whirl, Zeesie sneaks into the ""money room,"" becoming privy to a very well kept adult secret. While Rael's account of this vibrant social scene is evocative of the 1930s, her bountiful text nearly overwhelms readers with detail, from the names of Yiddish songs to special foods. Likewise, the ambitious money-room plot line slows the pacing. Priceman's (Zin, Zin, Zin! A Violin; How to Make an Apple Pie, see p. 85) mannered gouaches capture the invigorating energy of a bustling, crowded neighborhood, and her scenes of couples twirling on the dance floor and families at table possess a simple elegance. Both art and text celebrate the secure feelings of a close-knit community. Endnotes include a glossary of terms as well as an explanation of the package party concept. Ages 5-8. (Oct.)