This picture book immediately caught my eye because it was larger than most of the other books on the shelves in our middle and high school library. Also, the cover reminded me of a small child in
many many years ago. And sure enough, after reading the first page, I found out that the setting was New York Mulberry Street (Little Italy) in . This hooked me right away because my father’s side of the family is from New York Brooklyn and we go to a restaurant on Mulberry Street a few times each year.
Peppe, the main character is a young Italian boy (first generation) looking for work to help his family. He was turned down by many people due to slow business and being too young. But his determination paid off when he met a lamplighter who needed to leave for a while. He was given the job of lighting all of the lamps on
Mulberry Street. He went home excited about the opportunity, and everyone was excited except for his father (who wanted Peppe to be…in his mind….so much more). This upset Peppe because he disappointed his father each time he returned home each night after lighting the lamps. One night Peppe decided he wasn’t going to hurt his father any longer, and he did not light the street lamps. The area was dark and his youngest sister did not return home for fear of being in the dark. Peppe’s father changed his tune and pleaded with Peppe to light the street lamps so that his sister would come home safe. Sure enough, he did just that and he found his sister.
The little morals/lessons from the story were (to name a few):
· Believe in yourself
· Hard work will pay off
· All jobs are important
It’s interesting, because when you walk down the streets in the Little Italy area (namely
Mulberry Street), gas lights luminate around some restaurants. Now I’m going to have to research that area during this particular time period to see what did exist for lighting at night.