Book Review: Across the Alley by Richard Michelson

AR book level 4.0
AR points 0.5
Available at Amazon.comAcross the Alley

Across the Alley is a powerful picture book about what separates people: cultural and racial differences, not the small alley between their buildings.  Richard Michelson’s prose and E.B. Lewis’s illustrations meld into a lovely book that’s perfect for a readaloud and discussion.

The story takes place in New York City, where Abe and Willie live across the alley from each other.  Abe is Jewish and Willie is black.  During the day, they don’t talk.  But at night, they have a secret friendship across the alley.

The boys are hemmed in by their cultures, not only in their friendships but in their pursuits.  However, they find that Abe doesn’t really like playing violin—but Willie is a natural.  Likewise, with a little help from Willie, Abe soon outdoes the teacher when it comes to pitching.

Then one night, Abe’s grandfather catches them.  What will happen to their friendship Across the Alley?

*Spoiler alert: the boys inspire their families and everyone becomes friends in the light.

Across the Alley segues nicely into classroom discussions about a variety of topics:

  • One advantage of befriending people who are different from you is that you learn new things.  How does Across the Alley illustrate this point?
  • Young people have a way of crossing cultural divides, sometimes persuading their families to do so.  How do the young people in Across the Alley influence the old?
  • New York City life and the culture of Jewish and African-American people at the time of Across the Alley
  • Baseball: Negro LeaguesSatchel Paige and other players mentioned in the book
  • Jewish culture: learn about synagogues, such as the one where Willie gives a recital
  • Prejudices against both boys’ cultures: Abe faces anti-Semitism and Willie faces racism.  This isn’t shown in the book, but it was all but inescapable at the time.
Posted in Book Reviews,Fun With Literacy by Corey Green @ May 12, 2014

 

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment