Laundry Day – Cybils Picture Book Fiction Review

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Following on from my Friday book recommendation about a red-tailedhawk in New York City, I have another New York book for you today, with a historical flavor.

Laundry day

By Maurie J. Manning

Published by Clarion Books, 2012

Ages: 3+

Themes: Lost and found possessions, multicultural neighbourhoods, urban life


This picture book opens with a warm, busy double-paged spread of a New York street set in, I would guess, the early years on the 20th century. Horse-drawn delivery carts and market stalls fill the street, which is flanked by tall tenement buildings. Our young protagonist, a shoe-shine lad and his ginger cat, is emphasized simply by the artist creating a little more space around them than the other New Yorkers.

The shoe shine trade is slow this day, and the lad spots a pigeon overhead with a strip of red cloth. We pan over into two more exquisite wordless double-pages spreads looking upward to the laundry drying out on the washing lines blowing between the apartment blocks. Our kindhearted boy climbs up to the first floor chinese laundry balcony to try and find the cloth’s owner.

On this bustling, busy bad-business day, this lad turns everything around as he climbs higher and higher in search of the owner of this red scarf, and helping out individuals along the way. Typical of New York, each person he asks belongs to a different linguistic/cultural community and the simple, but charming, text is scattered with colloquial expressions. The endpapers include translations for each of these words/phrases! 

“Lady is this your baby’s blanket?”

“How beautiful! the same color as the embroidery on my rushnyk. But it’s not mine. Try Mr Travelini, the organ grinder, one flight up.”

Why I like this book:

This graphic/comic style  (in Candy Round font) with text in balloons will appeal to young and older children, especially boys. It is a very visual tale and needs to be seen as well as read/listened to, and is so obviously from an author/illustrator. The illustrations are in digital pencil, watercolor and pastel and kind of remind me of Dickensian-with-a-smile scenes. There is a real feel-good, community-spririt taste to the book, which makes you want to look out for doing a good turn for someone today! There are some beautiful historical details worth looking for as well as the ginger cat and pigeon tucked into each page!

The people and pages are colorfully diverse and I immediately wanted to go back and reread Laundry Day when I finished it the first time! On a side note, Naples’ (Italy) streets still hang laundry like this Possibly a Caldecott contender?


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14 Responses to Laundry Day – Cybils Picture Book Fiction Review

  1. This sounds very cute and intriquing. I so want to look at those full page spreads. I also love how the little boy connects with the varied people he comes in contact with as he climbs. I must look for this one…. thanks Joanna.

  2. This sounds like a fun book! I like the bilingual parts of it! 🙂

  3. Sounds like an unusual turn of the century book, that captures NYC and the bilingual community. I think I’d really enjoy this one, because I like this period of time. Your review did it justice. It also sounds fun an shows a compassionate boy who gets involved.

  4. I’ve got a PB ms from that time period, so I need to see this! Thanks Joanna!

  5. Joanna says:

    I do enjoy historical picture books, both fiction and nonfiction, Julie!

  6. This sounds neat. I love all the options that are available in literature. So much to learn and enjoy.

  7. I love the sound of this, Joanna! Pigeons reminds of the UK too 🙂

  8. Joanna says:

    It does, Catherine, and this could be a London street at the turn of the century, though maybe a little less cosmopolitan!

  9. Rhythm says:

    I’ve never been to New York, but this story is intriguing. I like stories that have a ripple effect. And I really enjoy visual stories. Thanks for sharing this one.

  10. This sounds very engaging, Joanna! I love the idea of a boy trying so hard to be helpful. The art and text sound delightful!

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