Each day, a school-age child passes the neglected outer wall of what appears to be an abandoned movie theater in a diverse New York City neighborhood.
The streets bustle with kids, families, and traffic. Inside the child’s home the family hosts potlucks, and, on the roof, there is dancing and singing. These lively communal gatherings are in direct contrast to the blank, mute wall that everyone ignores—until the brown-skinned child takes charge. Together with neighbors and friends, armed with paint and sketches, they give life to their memories and imaginations. In no time at all, the wall is the neighborhood. Verde’s simple, expository, second-person narrative fluctuates between youthful exuberance and adult commentary as readers follow the tired wall through the seasons. “Soon we have filled you with colors, / creations, energy. / You are stone but you don’t have to be hard.” Parra’s familiar, flat matte illustrations chronicle the wall’s evolution until it reflects the neighborhood’s vibrancy back to the people who enliven its revitalized surface. Mural projects have often traditionally served as unifying forces within blighted, fragmented communities, but not in this case. The residents interact, are friendly, and are organically connected before the mural is planned. Since the unnamed child is the catalyst of this activity, it’s a pity the voice is not more consistently childlike.
A classroom-friendly call for social activism somewhat marred by a too-adult voice. (Picture book. 5-8)