A lovely starred review for the audio version of Joanne Rocklin's book, read by Lisa Baney. Joanne's next book, also a middle grade, THE FIVE LIVES OF OUR CAT ZOOK, is due out spring 2012, also by Amulet/Abrams.
Gr 3-6: It all starts with a bright orange construction cone, inexplicably placed in front of the curb at 306 Orange Street. Strange and magical things and ideas ensue on this empty lot, the site of a single surviving tree from a formerly huge orange grove. This glorious tree with its deliciously sweet, yet tart oranges is at the center of the drama, and almost metaphysically keeps the history of the people and pageantry of time through the ages on Orange Street. It is as if the empty lot is a stage, and all the residents of Orange Street are the actors. Alli; her mute toddler brother, Edgar (a cancer survivor); Manny, the gentle nanny; Leandra, the bold; Robert, erstwhile magician; and anxious Bunny all meet under the majestic tree to argue, plan, and dream. Meanwhile, an aging neighbor lady slips into increasingly disturbing dementia. All bear witness to the secrets and history of the community. The fate of the tree, as well as their friendships, rest in their hands, and stories about each neighbor are revealed in surprising ways. Along the way, we find that words can hurt, heal, and make magic. Lisa Baney’s voice has a mysterious, dark timbre that lends a warm and rich interpretation to Joanne Rocklin’s novel (Amulet Books, 2011). The bits and pieces of individual stories are skillfully woven together. The love of words encompasses the story, from the use of the Oxford English Dictionary to the importance of the characters really listening to each other to the unexpected joy of advice given in rap style. The rich language is the star of this exquisitely written and beautifully performed selection.—School Library Journal, starred audio review