Jun 16, 11
Read in June, 2011
I bought this book from a secondhand shop because, at that time, I was very madly in love with a man named Dave. I knew nothing about it other than smiling at the delight of finding a book about a Dave, even though it wasn't "my" Dave.
I think sometimes we find the best literary treasures by the silliest means of selection possible.
To throw together Jewish and jazz culture in flapper Manhattan for a kids' book is gusty and brilliant, and Levine definitely pulls it off. From just enough Yiddish to make you really hear the old gonif Solly to just enough name-dropping to make you want to learn more about these artists and poets, Levine's tale-spinning is beautifully rich and under-stated, not something you get to see all that often in children's lit anymore.
The Harlem Renaissance always makes me chuckle now because of a presentation I did on it in school once. When I chose it from a list, I was thinking the European Renaissance had somehow moseyed its way across the ocean--imagine my surprise when I encountered Langston Hughes instead of Niccolo Machiavelli! But here it is so tantalizingly offered, like a silk sheath that gives the shape but not the flesh--and the jazz. I love Levine's descriptions of jazz, the physicality of it. Jazz, done right, really does become almost a tangible thing, a soul-stirrer that holds on you to and makes you want to sway.
I also appreciated the afterword, in which Levine talks about her father, the inspiration for the story, and also gives a few referrals for people who want to read more. I'm definitely tracking down the book on Manhattan history she mentions.
A very good read, all in all, filled with lively characters, well-disguised morality lessons, and so very many tasty tidbits. This one I'm hanging on to--it is definitely worth the memory of the funny way I came into ownership.