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ANGEL CITY by Tony Johnston

ANGEL CITY

By Tony Johnston (Author) , Carole Byard (Illustrator)

Age Range: 5 - 8

Pub Date: June 1st, 2006
ISBN: 0-399-23405-5
Publisher: Philomel

In a Los Angeles seemingly devoid of angels, one old man makes a step toward municipal redemption when he adopts a baby he finds abandoned in a dumpster. Based on a true story, Johnston’s lyrical prose poem develops the loving relationship between old Joseph and Juan, the former an African-American from Georgia, the latter the little Mexican boy he’s determined to raise in both cultures. Accordingly, old Joseph takes cooking lessons from Latina neighbors and tells the little boy stories he learned from his elders. Together they take a vacant lot and turn it into a cornfield so Juan will “know the song of corn.” Underlying everything is the old man’s fear that the violence that has overtaken Los Angeles will find Juan, a fear that bears bitter fruit when Juan is nine and his best friend is killed in a drive-by shooting. Byard’s bright, loose acrylics present the relationship year by year, the care in old Joseph’s face contrasting with the compact energy of the growing Juan. A quieter exploration of the toll inner-city violence takes on the innocent is hard to imagine, nor a lovelier. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)