Arlene Alda, , illus. by Maryann Kovalski. . Tundra, $17.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-88776-620-6

Alda, whose photographs brought to life a Lower East Side tenement in 97 Orchard Street, New York, returns to that setting for this inspiring picture-book portrait of immigrant life. Homesick for Italy, Mama finds little consolation in the harsh realities of 1930s tenement life. "Mostly she ironed and sewed and mopped the floor and took naps," says her daughter, the narrator, as an illustration shows Mama laying dejectedly on the bed, her body turned away from her worried husband and child. Then the girl wins a packet of morning glory seeds at Coney Island ("Seeds can work magic, if you let them," says the man at the booth). Soon after she plants them on the family's fire escape, leaves creep up to the flat's window, catching Mama's attention with a shy wave. Then the floral trumpets run riot throughout the neighborhood. "Every day the stems grew taller and taller and taller.... Soon all the buildings, as far as you could see, had flowers on them." The spirits of all the Lower East Siders seem to soar, and the narrator breaks into rhyme: "Grumpy Mrs. Grimaldi thanked her customers every day./ She said 'Hello' and 'Thank you,' even if they couldn't pay." Kovalski's (Rivka's First Thanksgiving) openhearted watercolor and charcoal renderings make an ideal match for this urban fairy tale, while her characterizations possess poignant emotional depth—as the enchanted flowers lift Mama's depression, the happiness and relief in her daughter's face radiates from the page. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)