The Boy on Cinnamon Street
I often read on the subway, which, while sometimes resulting in fantastic conversations with fellow travelers about shared tastes, can lead to some embarrassing moments. I've been known to laugh aloud for no apparent reason (other than the book on my lap) or find myself in a crammed rush-hour train in tears, as was the case when I read THE BOY ON CINNAMON STREET this week. As I read one of the most heartbreaking scenes in recent memory (you'll know the one I mean when you read it), I was bawling my eyes out in front of complete strangers, and I didn't even care. That's how good this book is.
"Throughout the book, Phoebe Stone tells her story with a brilliant eye to characterization, a sweetly romantic sensibility, and a near-perfect grasp of language in sparkling sentences that beg to be read aloud..."
Seventh-grader Louise has undergone a lot of changes recently. She has moved across town, from a little house on Cinnamon Street into a condo with her eccentric but loveable grandparents. She has changed schools as a result and is having a hard time making friends, even though she was popular at her old school. Louise has quit the gymnastics team, even though gymnastics used to be the center of her life. She even wants to change her name --- from Louise to Thumbelina, after the fairy tale heroine this petite protagonist resembles.
Thumb doesn't have many friends, but the ones she has are keepers. Reni and her brother Henderson are so close to Thumb that she sometimes thinks of herself as an honorary member of their family, a comforting thought when her own family has changed so much.
Thumb is so small (just 4'7") that most people think she is a little kid. She has to shop in the children's department, which is no real surprise. But when she starts getting mysterious, romantic messages from a secret admirer, Thumb is thrilled that someone views her not only as a middle-schooler but also as an object of attraction. Reni is convinced that Thumb's admirer is Benny McCartney, the pizza delivery boy. In true middle-schooler fashion, Reni and Thumb doggedly pursue the crush, even as Thumb begins to wonder what --- and whom --- she really wants. Meanwhile, the gifts continue from a secret someone who, as Thumb says, "knows me all the way down to my toes."
Thumbelina, with her quiet desires and secret fears, is the kind of character that sneaks up on readers and into their hearts. Her innocent hopefulness is contagious, and readers will be eager to investigate the various mysteries in Louise's life right alongside her. Some of her discoveries are horrible and heartbreaking; others are charming, sweet and perfectly right.
Throughout the book, Phoebe Stone tells her story with a brilliant eye to characterization, a sweetly romantic sensibility, and a near-perfect grasp of language in sparkling sentences that beg to be read aloud ("I have this image suddenly of me as a rag doll with all these mends all over my body. There's a mend even over my heart.") --- perhaps even read aloud to strangers on the subway.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on April 30, 2012