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A Castle on Viola Street Hardcover – August 7, 2001


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Likable young Andy narrates DiSalvo's (Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen) latest tale celebrating the importance of community and home life. He lives with his parents and two younger sisters in a cramped apartment that lacks sufficient heat in winter. His father, who each morning rises before dawn to go to work, says, "Someday things will change around here." Yet the family keeps an upbeat attitude: the narrator notes that "There always seemed to be enough to go around, even with five people at our table," while his mother comments that "Our family is rich in more ways than we can count." One day Andy learns of a meeting organized by a Habitat for Humanity-like organization, and his family joins the effort to refurbish a nearby abandoned home. As Andy's father succinctly explains, "If you're interested in helping to fix up a house for other people... then one day other people will help fix up a house for you." DiSalvo's conversational text tells how the family pitches in, and readers will applaud the news that Andy's family will move into the next house the group tackles. The loosely rendered artwork effectively captures the characters' energy and spirit of cooperation. This affecting tale will be an eye-opener for youngsters who take their warm home for granted and will send a missive of hope to those who long for the same. Ages 5-8.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

PreSchool-Grade 3-Readers who are familiar with Habitat for Humanity and similar programs in theory can now see it in practice from a child's perspective. After Andy and his parents work as volunteers for an organization that buys deserted buildings and fixes them up, they finally get word that they will soon be working on a house that will become their own. The first-person narrative, while not consistently childlike in voice, does include plenty of details that gives a feel for the family's modest goals. More about their circumstances, such as Andy's lack of a bedroom before the move, is revealed only through the large, upbeat, colored-pencil and gouache illustrations. They also show that the family is warm and loving, living in a diverse neighborhood. Text is well placed, primarily on double-page spreads. The intent of the book is made clear by the foreword by Habitat for Humanity founder Millard Fuller. Although unmistakably a book with a purpose, it succeeds in introducing children to an important movement, with the art and design allowing them to see a story along with the message.
Faith Brautigam, Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin, IL
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 5 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 570L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; 1st edition (August 7, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688176909
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688176907
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 0.3 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #894,003 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

DyAnne DiSalvo is an American artist and author of children's literature, best known for her string of books which focus on building better communities, including City Green, Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen and Grandpa's Corner Store.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Barbara Gruener on August 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
What a wonderful story about building a caring community! Andy and his family are able to find a house for their home when the volunteers start fixing up number 146 Viola Street. His dreams become a reality, bit by bit, thanks to a collective effort by this those who volunteer for this organization which "buys empty houses and fixes them up like new" and his family. Use this book to teach your children about the benefits of being a good citizen and seizing the myriad of volunteering opportunities out there! This is a book you won't want to miss.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am working on a unit study about the ways that governments, organizations, and individuals help meet people's needs or solve various problems. One of the organizations we will study is Habitat for Humanity, so I was delighted to find this book about how Habitat for Humanity (or a similar group) might work in a neighborhood, and the impact it might have on the families that it helps.

The plot is quite straightforward - a child, Andy, lives in a small rented apartment but dreams of owning a home with a garden and a porch. His family learns about an organization that is going to fix up some boarded buildings in the neighborhood, and they volunteer to help. After working on several homes for others, they receive the news that next spring they'll be working on their OWN home.

I do wish this book had included a page or two about ways that young people can help Habitat for Humanity. For example, I belong to a homeschool group that is planning to bring lunch to Habitat for Humanity workers in two weeks. And last spring our family volunteered in a community-wide fundraiser for Habitat as well.

In "Above All Be Kind" by Zoe Weil, Weil makes a very compelling point that "Without action, compassion can lead to despair and deep sorrow, but when we do act upon our empathy, not only do we and our children feel empowered and positive about ourselves, our collective acts become an extraordinary force for good." Intuitively this makes so much sense to me, and hopefully future editions of "A Castle on Viola Street" will include some service ideas.
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Format: Hardcover
In a day and age where many people believed they are "owed" things in life without ever lifting a finger to help themselves this book is an EXCELLENT example for children to read of how a family, through working hard and helping others, finally obtain a dream of their own, a house. Not that we should just do things for others in order to get things back but we should help others in order to see their lives improved and their dreams fulfilled.

Life was hard for this family but they worked hard to make ends meet. When the houses across from the Laundromat were going to be renovated Mom and Dad signed up and the entire family spent their Saturdays working / volunteering in the houses on the renovations. Later in the Fall, the family were notified that next spring they would be working on their own house. What an amazing work ethic / attitude to teach our kids. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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3 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 6, 2003
Format: Library Binding
There's no question about it. This book is yet another example of Diane Disalvo Ryan's great writing and wonderful illustrations, but there's a spirit missing. Sadly, that special something that inspired her to write books like Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen and City Green is gone. It is evident to this writer that her heart and soul just isn't in it anymore.
I used to be a fan of this writer/illustrator but, I feel let down and very disappointed by her recent offerings. I won't be reading anymore of Mrs. Ryan's books. The thrill is gone.
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