School Library Journal - Rettie and the Ragamuffin Parade
School Library Journal (Sep 2017)
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.