Sunday, February 20, 2011

"The King of Mulberry Street" by Donna Jo Napoli (Book Thoughts

Donna Jo Napoli has become one of my favorite juvenile fiction authors.  (Thank you, Courtney Rene

When I open a book, I want the author to transport me to the time and place of the story.  I want the author to show me how to live and breathe the same way as the characters in the book and maybe teach me something along the way.  Ms. Napoli has succeeded in doing those things with every book I've read so far.

The King of Mulberry Street follows nine year old Beniamino's journey from Naples, Italy to New York in 1892.  When he reaches Ellis Island, he takes the name, Dom Napoli.

This is no romantic story about an immigrant family coming to America.  Dom, an Italian Jew, is alone, penniless, and living on the streets.

When I was young, I remember the older women of my family sitting at the kitchen table and drinking coffee.  They spoke of another relative that came from the other side when he was only a boy.  I had so many questions, but back then, children were seen and not heard.  By the time I was old enough to ask, nobody was alive that knew the story. This book is like sitting at the feet of that relative and hearing the story we all want to know.

Ms. Napoli leaves nothing out.  We get a taste of the good, the bad, and the in-between.  I laughed and cried and wondered and marveled at the bravery of our ancestors.   Their ambition, motivation, and sometimes just plain survival is what made this country an amazing place of opportunity.