August 23, 2005

Book Review Contest: How Little Lori Visited Times Square

lori_times_square.jpg

Title: How Little Lori Visited Times Square
Author/Illustrator: Amos Vogel/ Maurice Sendak
Reviewer: Eric Schulmiller

ìThis is a very funny book and should not be read while drinking orange juice or you will spill it!"

Truer words may never have been spoken in the preface to a childrenís book. This overlooked gem by Amos Vogel was illustrated by Maurice Sendak in the same year (1963)that he penned the immortal classic Where the Wild Things Are. How Little Lori Visited Times Square features the perfect combination of humor and pathos created by its eponymous leading boy, Lori, who is the sincere, docile yet determined doppelganger to Sendak's Mad Max.

This lovely (and often hilarious) story has an almost Schulzian poignancy created by locating this sweet boyís Heroís Journey in a New York City that is simultaneously bustling and yet bereft of any adult caregivers. To the contemporary reader and his/her child(ren), this book provides a wonderful journey through a New York City that is both realistic (8th Street, South Ferry, buses, taxis, Queens, Staten Island, Central Park horse and buggy,) and at the edge of fantasy (242nd Street, Idlewild Airport [pre-JFK], swimming with Sea Lions, the Elevated Subway, the 125th floor of Macyís).

The author and illustrator are successful in capturing a nuanced New York attitude that is both authoritarian and yet silly (a cab driver who simply says ìplease get out thenî when informed that of course Lori has no money to pay him; signs on buses and buildings and bridges that exclaim ìDonít Walk on the Pigeons!!î or ìEat Food!î or advertise ìString Beans!î).

In the end [spoiler alert], a turtle offers (in a one-word-per-page monologue!) a sobbing Lori a ride to Times Square, which he joyfully accepts. However, instead of a pat (the bunny) ending, the book states that this turtle ride ìWAS FOUR MONTHS AGO - and nobody has heard from them since.î Like that other Charlie (the one from the Boston MTA), Loriís adventures have taken him beyond the scope of this book and five boroughs-worth of transit systems, and into the minds and hearts of our childrenís imaginations.

Wow. I just bought How Little Lori Visited Times Square at Amazon. The book is one of 22 Sendak titles long out of print, which are being reissued. So far, there are 16. Check them out at Amazon, too.

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