This Canadian import, adapted from an animated film, is an earnest effort to paint a positive picture of an urban neighborhood. Unfortunately, it fails to bring the narrator and her surroundings to life.
Beginning with a reference to Jane Jacobs, a mid-20th-century journalist, author and activist who focused on urban planning, the text is explicitly purposive. Lucia, the narrator, uses simple declarative sentences to describe her community and review a typical day’s activities. In the morning, “[m]y neighborhood is pretty busy”; at noon, the letter carrier comes by, and school kids like Lucia come home for lunch (“Grandmother made my favorite soup!”). There’s the excitement of a local parade in the afternoon, and at the end of the day “things quiet down.” In meticulous, ebullient detail, Lucia faithfully describes everyday events and alludes to various friends and neighbors. The neighborhood is somewhat multicultural; apparently many residents (and possibly Lucia herself) are of Portuguese descent. The flat, digitally created illustrations have an appealing folk-art feel and offer more interesting detail than the bland text. Lucia’s life and location may be much more compelling in Montrose Avenue, the animated short in which she made her first appearance. Most readers, however, will find little reason to linger in her neighborhood.
Good intentions and appealing artwork can’t overcome the vague descriptions and generic flavor of this narrative. (Picture book. 4-7)