Full Text Reviews:
Booklist - 03/15/2011 In this neighborhood story set over a day and a half, the kids on a Los Angeles block hang out near an old, thriving orange tree on an empty lot. In moving chapters, Rocklin tells the dramatic story of each child, including grumpy Leandra, 10, and her twin brothers, P. J. and A. J.; Ali, who visits with old Ethel Finneymaker (also known as Ms. Snoops), who remembers playing in the lot when she was nine years old, in 1939; Ali’s little brother, Edgar, who has returned silent and pale from the hospital; and Robert, who brings a mouse home from the lot and makes him a secret pet. The novel is overcrowded with characters, but the vignettes lend themselves to readers’ theater; each one is a touching story, beautifully told in multiple viewpoints. The climax helps bring the confusing mix together: a developer is planning to cut down the orange tree, and the details of what will happen to the beloved landmark are a metaphor for the whole neighborhood. Can the kids save their ground? - Copyright 2011 Booklist.
Bulletin for the Center... - 04/01/2011 In the middle of an empty lot in Los Angeles stands an orange tree, older by years than the houses that surround it and a staple spot for the neighborhood children and their summertime activities. Leandra, Bunny, and Ali conduct the meetings of the Girls with Long Hair Club under its branches while the neighborhood magician-in-training, Robert, hunts through its branches for a suitable mate for his magic mouse. Even Ms. Snoops, despite her failing memory, remembers that the best ambrosia is made from the oranges on the tree’s north side and that a long time ago, another kid knew that too, a kid who buried his secret treasures alongside the tree’s deep roots. When a hot summer’s day brings a strange man threatening the tree’s existence, the residents of Orange Street are forced to look beyond their individual dramas to save not just the oranges but their neighborhood as well. Each chapter focalizes the third-person narration through a particular child, and the book weaves the singular tales into a larger story about a community that is pleasingly quirky but still believable, akin to the world of Miranda’s apartment building in Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me (BCCB 9/09). The backdrop provides a comfortable stability in the midst of some rather hefty emotional turmoil, including absent parents and sick siblings, but these elements remain largely understated; Rocklin shows a remarkable amount of restraint focusing on the everyday details of each of the children’s lives, making their underlying anxieties all the more touching. The mystery surrounding the stranger is somewhat predictable, but even his story is poignantly felt, and the happy ending for these mostly likable characters feels well deserved. Readers and parents looking for some wholesome sweetness will want to make a visit to Orange Street. KQG - Copyright 2011 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
School Library Journal - 05/01/2011 Gr 4–7—A Day-Glo orange cone has been placed at the curb of the empty lot on Orange Street, and everyone notices it. The neighborhood kids think of the lot and its orange tree as theirs. Its shade provides cool comfort and the lot is their gathering spot. This space becomes the setting for the cast of quirky characters who unveil their worries, wishes, and dreams over the course of one day and the next morning. The importance of the orange tree and the empty lot spans time and intertwines past and present Orange Street residents through their stories. With magic tricks, health issues, a father going off to war, an injured hummingbird, buried treasure, and more, this mulitfaceted story has been polished to simplicity. Fascinating and thought-provoking, the writing has a gentle cadence, richness in detail, and is charged with emotion. The book, like the oranges on the Orange Street tree, presents segments of life that are both sweet and tart and sure to satisfy.—Helen Foster James, University of California at San Diego - Copyright 2011 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.