An almost-true story of a man who loved his job and did it well.
In this colorful mélange of fact and fiction, Bildner tells the tale of Cornelius Washington, a sanitation worker who cleans the streets of the French Quarter of New Orleans and performs his job with flair. Cornelius does flips, lobs bags of trash into his garbage truck as if shooting hoops in the gym, makes trash-can lids into cymbals, and entertains locals while making the streets sparkle. Hurricane Katrina changes all of that, leaving trash, death, and decay in its wake, “a gumbo of mush and mud.” After weeping for his city, Cornelius joins forces with his neighbors and the waves of people who come to New Orleans post-Katrina from all over to help make New Orleans sparkle once again. Parra’s lively, rustic illustrations look textured, as if they were painted on wooden boards—appropriate for a book that depicts only outdoor scenes. Notably, the images of the French Quarter post-Katrina suggest a much more diverse population than those of pre-Katrina New Orleans; perhaps some who came to help stayed. The illustrator fills every page with activity, while the text comments on individual people readers can find if they look.
A fine tribute to an unsung African-American hero. (Picture book. 3-7)