Willie and Abe, two young boys with generations of history behind them, are secret best friends. Sam is African American and his daddy wants played baseball in the Negro Leagues and he has great expectations that his son will play in the majors. Abe has a grandfather who played the violin back in the old country but had his fingers broken by the Nazis who worked him like a slave. Willie's great grandfather knew something about slavery too. With this as the background Willie and Abe are secretly teaching each other to throw a two-seamed fastball and to play the violin. Abe wants to play baseball. Willie wants to play the violin. But they have to keep their secret until the night Grandpa opens Abe's door so quietly that neither boy knows he's there and suddenly the secret is out. With great gentleness, Grandpa tells Willie the same thing he's been telling Abe all summer, "You'll be the next Jascha Heifetz." So the Jewish Grandpa, the African American father and the two boys come out of their homes, out of their pasts and create a brilliant present with friendship and acceptance and celebration. The master who weaves the faces together is none other than E.B. Lewis. His trademark use of darkness is brilliant as always and the sense of connection between the two boys who are talking across the alley is visceral. This is one that should be on every bookshelf. 32 pages Ages 5-9
Across the Alley
Putnam Juvenile 2006
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