Jane Cut­ler; Emi­ly Arnold McCul­ly, illus.
  • Review
By – January 9, 2012
Ten-year-old Ben lives with his wid­owed moth­er, old­er sis­ter, and broth­er in the poor­est part of a large Cana­di­an town, along with oth­er Jew­ish immi­grants. And though Mama works long hours at a fac­to­ry and Ben’s sis­ter and broth­er have quit school to work full-time, there’s nev­er a pen­ny left over.” Ben, full of hope” and deter­mined not to live in pover­ty for­ev­er,” decides he, too, must get a job. He’s entrust­ed with the use of a bicy­cle to deliv­er hat lin­ings to a fac­to­ry across town. But when he tries to hitch a ride up a hill by grab­bing onto the brass pole of a pass­ing trol­ley, he takes a hard fall and the hat lin­ings scat­ter every­where. Even worse, the con­duc­tor calls him a gut­ter­snipe, an ugly epi­thet often hurled at chil­dren of the slums. Ben is dev­as­tat­ed. And then, almost mirac­u­lous­ly, he real­izes he is just a boy, just start­ing out” with many things left to learn and expe­ri­ence.” The acci­dent is not an end to his hopes and dreams, it is a begin­ning. Emi­ly Arnold McCully’s charm­ing ink-and­wa­ter­col­or illus­tra­tions pro­vide many details of the cloth­ing, hair styles, shops, and street scenes of the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry. Ages 5 – 9.

Susan Kan­tor was a senior writer/​editor for Girl Scouts of the USA, a chil­dren’s book edi­tor, and a past judge for the Nation­al Jew­ish Book Awards in the illus­trat­ed children’s book cat­e­go­ry. She is a writer and a docent at the Rubin Muse­um in New York City, where she leads pub­lic and pri­vate tours.

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