Friday, December 26, 2008

108th Street by T. David Lee

David is petulant, angelic, greedy, noble, conniving, trustworthy, heroic and charitable. He’s all of these things, he’s all of ten years old, and he behaves just like most of us did at that same age. Living in New York City in 1958, he’s in the middle of the Baby Boomer generation in the heart of the largest city in the country, and all he wants to do is stand out, to find something he can claim as his alone. The exuberance of childhood swirls around him as he plots a course for triumph that leads him straight to calamity.

In this warm and funny portrayal of life from a simpler time, the author creates a vivid story line about one boy’s quest to be the best. Even though young David Lee hasn’t a clue about how to manage it, he’s determined to be declared the smartest boy in school.

The lengths to which he goes, and the depths to which he falls in pursuit of his goal frame an intimate tale set against the backdrop of life in the 1950s in the greatest city in the world.

My Review:
I chuckled my way through this humorous trip down memory lane that tells of a ten-year-old New York City boy during 1958.

This narrative is written in first-person, chronological order and divided into chapters of incidents that stand out in David's life. One chapter gives a good reason to prefer balcony seats at the neighborhood theater. Another chapter, written with a touch of tension, tells of a good site for viewing a house fire. A field trip to a bread factory, a family night out at a local restaurant, and the competition to accumulate the most awards in fourth grade each have their own chapter. Road trip and vacation take on new meanings. The book answers the question of when you might hear, "Please pass the magnet" at a dinner table.

One of my favorite chapters is The Fiery Fourth, when cousin Keith inadvertently invents cut-off pants while celebrating the fourth of July.

The reader meets Mrs. Bauer, a fourth-grade teacher who quickly makes David the teacher's pet. The following year, Mrs. Weingarter, his fifth grade teacher, gets the opposite impression after a bad beginning. The only way David can impress her is by coming up with a blue ribbon science fair project, so he decides to meet the challenge. We watch as he enlists as much help as he can so that he has as little to do as possible. There's an unexpected twist at the finish that the reader will enjoy.

From cover to cover, less than one year passes during this peek into boyhood. The combination of nostalgia mixed with humor, makes for an enjoyable read. Profanity is included.


Olga said...

I'm a big fan of books based on memories, especially humorous memories. One of my favourite writers happens to be Dave Sedaris who excels at taking you into his life story, as if you're a member of the family who just needs a catch-up.

I wonder, though--is it essential to know New York to read this book? Some stories tend to assume you know the place and time the book is written in, which can leave you lost if you're not a native New Yorker (or Philadelphian, or San Franciscan, or Torontonian...:D).

Dawn - She is Too Fond of Books said...

I imagine this is especially interesting to read from the perspective of a 10-year-old, with gaps in his knowlege of the world around him.