Rettie and the Ragamuffin Parade
A Thanksgiving Story
In 1918 a deadly influenza epidemic was sweeping across America. The pandemic ravaged families, leaving thousands of children as orphans. But in the tenement apartments of New York City's Lower East Side, one young girl is determined to keep her family safe. While her mother is sick with consumption, nine-year-old Loretta (Rettie) Stanowski does all the cleaning, washing, shopping, and cooking for her family. To earn money, she washes rags for the rag picker and cleans the halls and stairways of their apartment building. But Rettie knows the best way to get even more money is to participate in the Ragamuffin Parade that marches down Broadway Avenue on Thanksgiving morning. With the influenza outbreak, quarantines are ordered and large gatherings are banned. Will the parade be cancelled?
|Interest Level||Grade 1 - Grade 4|
|Reading Level||Grade 2|
|ATOS Reading Level||4.3|
|Guided Reading Level||P|
|Publisher||Sleeping Bear Press|
|Available Formats||Hardcover (9781585369607), PDF (9781534103085), Hosted ebook (9781534103238)|
|Number of Pages||32|
|Dimensions||9 x 11|
School Library Journal - Rettie and the Ragamuffin Parade
School Library Journal – Vivid artwork and a descriptive narrative re-create a vibrant 1918 New York City populated by immigrants struggling to survive an influenza pandemic at the tail end of World War I. Rettie is nine and the oldest of four siblings; she labors to keep their Lower East Side tenement home clean and earns money by washing rags while their father fights in the war and their mother is sick from consumption. Rettie eagerly anticipates the Ragamuffin Parade, in which children dress as beggars on Thanksgiving morning and parade through the streets asking, “Have ya anythin’ for Thanksgiving?” Rettie knows the parade may be the only way her family has something special for Thanksgiving but worries that the growing influenza threat may cancel the event. Noble succeeds at conveying the real hardship of immigrant life during the early 20th century while Gardner’s artwork breathes vibrancy into the story. His watercolor-and-pencil illustrations reinforce the tone, somber grays dominating one scene where Rettie meets her bedridden mother’s eyes. The only bright spots of color are her siblings’ clothes and her own patched sweater, as her mother’s gleaming gold wedding ring reminds readers that Rettie’s father is off fighting overseas. An author’s note cites the historical information. VERDICT An excellent historical fiction picture book for older readers interested in U.S. history or Thanksgiving celebrations, this is a timely selection as this year marks the U.S.’s centennial commemoration of World War I.
Kirkus Reviews - Rettie and the Ragamuffin Parade
A parade brings good tidings to an immigrant community beset by war, poverty, and illness. Thanksgiving morning on the Lower East Side is a special day for a white immigrant girl named Loretta “Rettie” Stanowski. It’s the day of the Ragamuffin Parade, when children dress in rags and collect pennies thrown at them. Nine-year-old Rettie, blonde and rosy-cheeked, needs those pennies because she is the head of her family. Papa is fighting in Europe in the closing days of World War I, and Mama is sick in bed with consumption. Rettie’s little siblings are hungry. Complicating matters in the neighborhood are the quarantine signs for the influenza pandemic. Despite all this, Rettie rises to the occasion, receiving compliments from a visiting nurse as she cleans, prepares food, and teaches her little sisters and brother their school lessons. All ends well as the fighting stops, Mama regains her health, and the flu scare abates. Pumpkins and apples adorn the tenement apartment as “a young girl’s heart is filled with the hope of Thanksgiving.” Noble’s tale of parades and tenement life positively brims to overflowing with good cheer, culminating on Thanksgiving Day 1918. Gardner’s full-color illustrations depict a bustling community where good spirits overcome bad happenings. All ends well in this parade filled with good spirits and optimism. (photograph, author’s note) (Picture book. 4-7)
Author: Trinka Hakes Noble
Trinka Hakes Noble is the award-winning author of numerous picture books including The Orange Shoes (2007 National Parenting Publications Awards Honors Winner), The Scarlet Stockings Spy (2005 IRA Teachers' Choice), The Last Brother, and The Legend of the Cape May Diamond. Ms. Noble also wrote the ever-popular Jimmy's Boa series and Meanwhile Back at the Ranch, both featured on PBS's Reading Rainbow. Her many awards include ALA Notable Children's Book, Booklist Children's Editors' Choice, IRA-CBC Children's Choice, Learning: The Year's Ten Best, and several Junior Literary Guild Selections. Ms. Noble has studied children's book writing and illustrating in New York City at Parsons School of Design, the New School University, Caldecott medalist Uri Shulevitz's Greenwich Village Workshop, and at New York University. A member of the Rutgers University Council on Children's Literature, she was awarded Outstanding Woman 2002 in Arts and Letters in the state of New Jersey for her lifetime work in children's books. Ms. Noble currently lives in the historic Jockey Hollow area of Bernardsville, New Jersey.
Illustrator: David C. Gardner
David Gardner is an award-winning illustrator and visual development artist. Before going freelance, he was an artist for several animation studios, including Walt Disney Animation Studios. His work has appeared in magazines, including Cricket and Cobblestone, and he has illustrated numerous picture books, including the historical biographies The Harvey Milk Story and Sarah Gives Thanks. A longtime member of the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators, Mr. Gardner teaches illustration at Ringling College of Art and Design. To learn more about his work, please visit him at FlyingDogStudio.com.
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- Author's Note