Keeping my ear to the ground of the goings on in the world of children's book illustration, I am always listening for any sounds of "The Yaccarino".
I jokingly call Dan Yaccarino that- meaning, something like "The Wizard". I think his work is just, well, magic. His choices for books- seem to hit me square in the face. "Go Go America" tackled roadside interesting quirky landmarks- living down the shore as a kid, giant bottles of champagne and pink life sized concrete dinosaurs were everywhere and my Dad used to take us to see crazy stuff like that in our station wagon. His "Jacques Cousteau" book- is my favorite, I watched Jacques' show in awe as a kid lying on the brown shag rug. And "Lawn to Lawn"- well, it's the Jersey in me- that feels the Jersey in him- I just wish there was a lighted Madonna statue somewhere in there too.
So- I knew he was coming out with a new book and I knew it was gonna be great.
It combines the story of his family -with his story telling and art- what's not to love?
He was going to do a talk at "The Tenement Museum" in Manhattan- somewhere I have wanted to go for years. This was the excuse to go tour the building and then we could stay for the talk. This was also an great opportunity to give my 11 year old daughter an insight into the lives of her own ancestors, all immigrants from all around the globe. I took her out of school early yesterday- and we trained it in to NYC, hoofed to the Lower East Side.... and
walked into history.
The stories of the lives of the families who inhabited 97 Orchard Street through it's 70 odd years of being home to new Americans - touched our hearts deeply. I personally believe homes; houses or buildings, have lives of their own-given to them by the families who live and love in them.
The families who struggled within these walls were strong, resourceful and resilient. We heard the tales of two; one German family and one Italian. Both families went on to live in nicer places through their hard work- giving the next generation- and the ones after that- opportunities to prosper.
This kitchen belonged to the Italian Baldizzi Family. It felt like the family was coming home any second. We listened to a recording of a woman who spent her childhood there. Her voice bringing the space to life even more.
I do love old things. Old buildings. I run my hand on old bannisters, trying to feel what it felt like to walk the staircases many many years ago. I like to walk on old floor boards and know that I am really walking in the footsteps of people that did amazing things great and small. The act of leaving behind all that you know half way around the world- to start again in this building in New York City- is truly a courageous thing. I was so glad to do this tour with my daughter. We had dinner afterwards and had a very deep conversation. She asked and I explained what prostitution is. I told her about the many deaths of children in my family's past and we talked about 9/11.
We ended the evening sitting in front of Dan Yaccarino and his Great Grandfather's shovel. I highly recommend his book and his talk. He will be up at The Eric Carle Museum on April 9th. You'll laugh and tear up and you'll recognize bits of your own family's story in it. I did.
I had an Italian grandmother too. Dan said "Looking in to a pot of sauce is like looking at the sky"
- Yes. It. Is.
What a gift the Tenement Museum is and what a gift Dan Yaccarino's book is too.
My Italian Playlist was too good to go just 'cause of the Irish: