Friday, August 7, 2009

A Parent's Dream Alley

The neighborhood lust that engulfed me while reading Eleanor Estes' The Alley made it hard to concentrate on any literary merit. The story takes place in the walled off play area of the alley, 27 houses with a common play area. The kids from babies on up play in each other's back yards and ride bikes up and down the common area, with occasional interference from a mom (of course, since this is the early 1960's, all the moms are home just in case). Some kids are annoying, some are bossy, but all are part of the community, even the biters.

Our hero, Connie, knows how good the situation is, and she gets along with almost everyone. She and her best friend, Billy, swing on her playset and encourage each other's ideas and plans, especially after a string of burglaries give a frisson to the neighborhood. Connie takes herself and her fears seriously, and the narration is almost condescendingly close. I enjoyed the old-fashioned feel of the story, with the now quaint home lives juxtaposed with the investigation of the criminals by the children. This book is not quite as cosy as the Moffats, since Connie as an only child can't have the same warm family (adults are by definition a bit removed). I'll offer to my kids, but I won't be surprised if it doesn't take. B+.

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