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OUR HOUSE by Pam Conrad Kirkus Star


The Stories of Levittown

by Pam Conrad

Age Range: 8 - 12

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-590-46523-6
Publisher: Scholastic

Six very short stories, some skillfully written and some just plain irresistible, about children growing up in Levittown during six different decades, with a historical prologue and a thoughtful epilogue. All of the stories are told in the first-person by narrators who are about ten years old. The first two stories--set in the 1940s and '50s, and the best in the collection--are about kids in hot water. The descriptions are comic and poignant at the same time; every word is used with great aplomb; and, though the main thrust of the stories isn't poetic, they evoke whole aspects of life in Levittown while concentrating on the central episode. In the stories set in the '60s, '70s, and '80s, Conrad (Call Me Ahnighito, p. 708) plays around with forms--the first is a dialogue, the second a diary, the third a writer's notebook. None of these has the casual lyricism of the first two, but in some indirect way, each suggests the spirit of the time. In a bold move, the last story is a tragedy, set in the same house as the first, years later. This twist links the stories obliquely and gives the book a kind of philosophical apotheosis. Levittown--the most extreme example of suburbia, where all the houses are literally identical--may have been ridiculed by some aesthetes, but Conrad hunts nostalgically down these streets the way a soldier might return to old army barracks for a look. The stories and their style charm by virtue of their lightheartedness, but for Conrad's elevation of Levittown and the sensations of childhood, she deserves even more praise. (Short stories. 8-12)