This beautiful book is perfect for grandparents to enjoy with their grandchildren. Who else could fondly recall the alleys, stoops, and apartment houses where children could lean out of bedroom windows to speak with a friend across the way? References to Sandy Koufax, Satchel Page, Jascha Heifetz, and the Negro Leagues help set the time and place. Artist E.B. Lewis’ grainy, sensitive watercolor paintings make this story of breaking stereotypes irresistible. Like the engaging narrative, the paintings leave a lot of space for the reader to imagine the details. Lewis’ free brush strokes are rich and airy at the same time and the images of people are warmly represented. There’s a charming, smiling grandpa wearing his yarmulke, full of hope that his grandson, Abe, will be a great violinist. Grandpa’s other expectation is that Willy, the African- American boy from across the alley will be a future baseball player in the Negro Leagues. Grandpa turns out to be very wrong, and as stereotypes are broken, he accepts reality with grace.
The paintings romanticize the tree lined blocks of Brooklyn brownstones fifty summers ago, when kids played stickball in the street, and neighbors like Willy and Abe could walk to Temple, or to the corner lot to play baseball. This book is a gem, highly recommended for secular and Jewish schools and all public libraries. It is an excellent example of both an intergenerational and a multicultural picture book at its best.