Books by Arlene Alda

Released: March 3, 2015

"Entertaining and informative cherished memories from a diverse group from the Bronx."
Short essays connected by a common thread: a childhood spent in the Bronx. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 10, 2010

Lulu's piano teacher, Mr Sharp, is a pretty sharp guy indeed, dressed all in black and sporting a bowtie, and it turns out he is quite a good teacher, too. On Monday, Lulu swings, and the swings go, "Squeak, squeak," so that when Mom says it is time for piano practice, Lulu says, "Later." But " ‘[l]ater' came and ‘later' went." On Tuesday Lulu rides her bike, ringing the bell, and when Mom calls her for practice, " ‘[s]oon' came and ‘soon' went." This goes on all week, but then it is Friday and time for her next lesson. Lulu admits to Mr Sharp that she hasn't practiced, but he asks her what she did do, and she describes and then sings all the sounds she heard. Mr Sharp has her play them on the piano, and she puts the sounds and the music together. Collage and digital art make for flattened surfaces and stylized shapes, enlivened by varying perspectives. Lulu has a beautiful head of bushy, curly hair and bright blue eyes. As lessons go, it's a mighty nice one. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
HELLO, GOOD-BYE by Arlene Alda
Released: March 10, 2009

Although it seems simple, the concept of opposites can be difficult for very young children to grasp. Alda's attractive photographs won't necessarily be a big help, featuring subjects as disparate as a palm tree on the beach and a stone Buddha being transported through the streets of New York. Most only carry a single-word description. Particularly for abstract ideas like "above" and "below," the connection between pictures (in this case of one tree's branches and a different tree's roots) and words may be fuzzy at best. This doesn't mean, however, that the book doesn't work—it just doesn't do what readers expect. It opens a world of possibilities for observation and conversation. Young listeners will be intrigued both by the unusual objects pictured on some pages and by the photographer's creative view of more familiar items. Berries are sweet and juicy, yes, but soft? Of course they are, particularly when compared to pumpkins and squashes, but it's still a novel way of seeing them, one that offers children (and adults) an enchanting new perspective. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
IRIS HAS A VIRUS by Arlene Alda
Released: Sept. 9, 2008

Providing low-key reassurance for anyone who's had to stay in bed with a bug, Alda tracks young Iris's three-day malaise from that general feeling that things are not quite right, through limp exhaustion, nausea ("Her head was hot. / She threw up in a pot"), a soothing visit to the doctor, troubled dreams of "Bugs with spots, / Bugs on cots, / Bugs like ants, / Bugs with pants" and on to full recovery. Desimini focuses largely on faces in her cut-paper collages, depicting Iris and her twin Doug (who turns out to be next in line) with red hair and bright green eyes. The less-savory products of illness are mentioned but never actually seen, and there is plenty of parental care in evidence. Written in a somewhat mystifying mix of prose and verse, this is a pricey but refreshing cup of literary chicken soup for illin' children. (Picture book. 6-8) Read full book review >
Released: March 11, 2008

The world takes on a decidedly animistic aspect in this photo album, as Alda's camera finds faces on trees and buildings, in the kitchen and the bathroom, in patterns on rugs, windows, the fronts of post-office mailboxes and even the slashes on round loaves of bread. Some pictures have a put-together look, but most seem to be presented as found, in natural light and without extensive digital manipulation. As she suddenly turns skyward on the last page to depict a piglet-shaped cloud, her attention span isn't as steady as it might be, and most of the faces she finds aren't nearly as friendly looking as those in Francois Robert's similar Find a Face (2004). Still, this will effectively spur young children to look more closely and imaginatively at their surroundings. A short rhymed text helps to identify each object or locale. (Picture book. 4-6)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2003

Mama, living on New York's Lower East Side in the 1930s with her husband and young daughter, is homesick for her native Italy. One summer day, to cheer her up, the family visits Coney Island, where the little girl wins a packet of seeds. Though the girl is disappointed in this less-than-hoped-for prize, she's astonished to discover that when the flowers eventually grow and proliferate, Mama's spirits bloom along with them. Soon the whole neighborhood is transformed by sky-blue bits of beauty; there are blossoms everywhere, and everyone's mood improves. Based on a true episode when residents of a Lower East Side neighborhood dressed up their bleak homes and lives with morning glories, the tale is as fragile as a flower; this Monday will likely be forgotten by Tuesday. However, Kovalski's muted art makes the time and place come alive, her tenement neighborhoods bustle with energy and appeal, and her characters' faces are most expressive. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 2001

At one time, the Lower East Side of New York City was said to have greater population density than any other city on earth. It was here, 97 Orchard Street, a five-story walk-up tenement built by German immigrant Lucas Glockner in 1864, that generations of immigrants settled. The place has been preserved since owners in 1935 closed it down to avoid bringing it up to housing code. Now it is the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, open for guided tours, providing glimpses into the crowded and uncomfortable condition of the tenants who came from many nations but all of whom were poor. The lives of those people and the history of the house and the area have been traced by historians working for the museum. Granfield provides necessary backgrounds to introduce each section with lengthy captions accompanying contemporary b&w photographs, as well as archival ones, maps, and portraits of the area creating a picture of the house, its tenants, and its neighborhood. At times, the author imagines conversations between people long gone and who surely left no record of these talks. Identifying dates of photos in the captions would have strengthened this considerably. The reader who needs more information will have to look elsewhere. (For instance, the word "steerage" is poorly explained and there is no mention of who protected the newcomers or that the tenants had to provide their own stoves.) A stronger, more complete text would provide more sympathy and understanding of the difficult lives for poor people, most of whom were newly arrived in the US. But many will find the biographies of their grandparents and great-grandparents in this study. (Nonfiction. 9-11)Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 1, 1999

A rollicking cross country sprint with their energetic grandmother leads siblings Ruthie and Joe and their friend to a wondrous discovery. Spying Granny Annie racing past, the children abandon their pursuits to join the chase; intrigued by her cryptic refrain—"Can't be late. Catching something. Something great"—the children speculate as to her goal. Heightening their interest is the fact that each time Granny Annie is about to explain where she is headed, she is interrupted and consequently distracted by a giant sneeze. Alda (Arlene Alda's 1 2 3, 1998, etc.) gives the tale an upbeat tempo, right to the surprising destination—at land's end overlooking an ocean sunset—that provides a foil to the chase. The loveliness of the setting sun overcomes the children's initial disappointment, providing them and readers with a reminder of the joy found in simple things. Aldridge's watercolors, done in shimmering golden hues, illuminate the beauty of an autumn sunset; she also includes whimsical elements for astute observers. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1994

The concept is simple: Each animal on the farm, as it wakes up, rouses its neighbor, until, finally, the boy of the house rises and begins his day. But this interdependence is not supported by the photographs, which emphasize the cuteness of each animal rather than its place in the community. The photos by themselves are gorgeous, but they serve no narrative function. And Alda (Sheep, Sheep, Sheep, Help Me Fall Asleep, not reviewed) is better with lens than with pen. Her verse is unremarkable at best. ``The cat meowed and purred a lot./She woke a boy whose name was Scott./Scottie said, `What made me wake?/I'd like more sleep, for goodness' sake.' '' Without any serious attempt at integrating its elements, this book is no reason to jump out of bed. (Fiction/Picture book. 3-7) Read full book review >