Laundry Day by Maurie J. Manning.
Laundry Day falls somewhere between a graphic novel and a picture book, with a comic book-style layout of cells in a picture book size and target age. Our hero is a little shoeshine boy in a big city, probably around the 1910s. He’s looking fruitlessly for customers when a bright red cloth drops down on him from the tall buildings above. One level up, he sees a Chinese laundress, so he climbs up to ask if it’s hers. It isn’t, but she offers him a moon cake and sends him to a neighbor whom she thinks might be the owner. The little boy’s journey goes on, as he climbs up balconies and across laundry lines, meeting and helping neighbors in small ways. In one case, he takes a penny to an Italian organ grinder from a Ukrainian mother with a crying baby, to see if some music will calm the baby. They are Chinese, Italian, Polish, Jamaican, Ukrainian, and Jewish, as revealed by their hanging laundry and tiny bits of their native languages sprinkled in (pronunciations and definitions given in a glossary at the end). Not until he reaches the roof of the building does he meet the owner. Once he is down on the ground again, the neighborhood is filled with friends instead of strangers and his shoeshine business is booming. One of my youth librarians points out that this is a rare book for preschool/early elementary that takes place during the “Olden Days” in a city rather than on the frontier. This is joyous celebration of the New World and of community.
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