MACARONI BOY by Katherine Ayres


Age Range: 9 - 12
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Pinning her narrative to a few key historical details, Ayres makes the Pittsburgh Strip during the Depression the setting for Mike Costa’s need to find out why his grandfather is so sick. Costa Brothers Fine Foods means Mike’s father and his three uncles; his grandfather doesn’t always remember that now, and Mike worries about him. Mike likes helping out in the family business—his job is emptying the rat traps in the basement—but he hasn’t quite figured out how to stop Andy Simms from picking on him. Mike doesn’t like Simms calling him Macaroni Boy, and he likes a new name, Rat Boy, even less. The rats seem to be getting sick even before being caught in Mike’s traps, and at first Mike thinks it comes from the rats eating rotten bananas from a warehouse explosion. But when Grandpap begins vomiting blood, Mike wonders if there’s any connection. Mike and his best friend, Joseph Ryan, methodically try to figure out what’s making the rats, and Grandpap, sick, while getting into occasional trouble with the nuns at school and with Simms regularly. Klavon’s, the local ice cream parlor (still in existence), and a local priest who runs a soup kitchen figure in the action, as Joseph and Mike solve the mystery. Vivid touches abound, like Mike and Joseph’s fascination with Joseph’s sisters’ lingerie. While there is little ethnically to distinguish Mike’s Italian-American father and uncles from his Irish mother (except their names), the warmth and family feeling is neatly if sketchily drawn. Enough grisly rat details and boyish bravado to keep the boys reading, and enough local color, familial comfort, and historical minutiae for the girls. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 11th, 2003
ISBN: 0-385-73016-0
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2002


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