Monday, January 25, 2010

Peppe the Lamplighter - Elisa Bartone

Illustrated by Ted Lewin
Loithrop Lee & Shepard, 1993
For: gr. 1-4
My rating: Story: 2.5/ Illustrations: 4
Endpapers: Bright Yellow
Caldecott Honor

Ted Lewin's beautiful, full-page illustrations take on a dark tone in this story. Peppe lives with his seven sisters and sickly father in the tenements of New York's Little Italy. Peppe hunts everywhre to find a job to help support his family, and finally procures one lighting the lamps around his neighborhood with a flame on the end of a long pole.

However, his father is ashamed of him - he says this is not why he brought his son to America -- he wants much more for him. His father's silence and attitude eventually rub off on Peppe, who gets more and more depressed - until he doesn't light the lamps one night. And because of that, his little sister doesn't arrive home. (She is afraid of the dark and huddles under an unlit lamp.)

Distressed, the father begs Peppe to go out and light the lamps. He finds his sister and brings her home to a now-loving and accepting father.

Okay, the illustrations are gorgeous. But the story throws me off a bit - this father! What a jerk. He doesn't deserve so many caring, hard-working kids! I bet if I read this aloud to my students they'd decide that for themselves, too. Grrrrrr.

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