A grand old apartment building at 777 Garden Ave. on Manhattan’s Upper East Side is the setting for a series of tales filled with humor, imagination, and sweetness.
Raschka creates a plethora of wonderfully eccentric characters, human and otherwise. There is nothing linear about the book’s format; stories roam all over the building and back and forth through many years with quirky, interconnected characters in starring roles. Mr. Bunchley, the doorman, knows everyone’s name and beautifies the lobby with amazing plants. Mrs. MacDougal files complaints about anyone who fails to adhere to her sense of decorum. Fred attempts to keep gravity at the proper level, controlling it with bread mash, pigeons, and, perhaps, a small earthquake. Theo’s kindness and curiosity lead to the discovery of a long-lost, secret room. Victoria follows Oskar on his plumbing rounds. Rodents Pee Wee and Anna are, respectively, a jazz musician and a psychoanalyst. Mr. Norton and Mr. Jones are longtime companions with a unique method of addressing insomnia. Otis the elevator and Liesl the boiler play purposeful roles in the lives of the building’s inhabitants. Raschka mixes truth with plausible but deliberately misleading information, keeping readers on their toes. Ethnicity and race are never mentioned, but Raschka’s bold-lined, off-kilter, detailed illustrations depict Victoria with dark skin and others with light tones.
A warm, wonderful delight for readers young and old. (Fiction. 9-12)