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An Angel for Solomon Singer

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Gr 3 Up-- Solomon Singer is a middle-aged man who lives in a hotel for men in New York City. One night his solitary wanderings take him into a restaurant where he reads these words on the menu: ``The Westway Cafe -- where all your dreams come true. '' A soft-voiced waiter (metaphorically named Angel) welcomes him and invites him back. Each night Singer returns, ordering food and, silently, ordering his wishes for the things he remembers from an Indiana boyhood. Rylant has sketched a spare portrait, in flawless, graceful prose, of a man weighted down by hopelessness. Readers do not know the details of his circumstances, but they will feel his forlornness acutely. There is a symbolic and ambiguous quality to this book, which, despite its uplifting ending, is heightened by the illustrations. Catalanotto's signature watercolors have never been more affecting. He captures the smudgy nighttime murkiness of urban streets illuminated by artificial lights that float upward to become stars and bleed downward onto wet pavements to become a vision of midwestern wheat fields. This can be read as a familiar allegory in which the mysterious stranger represents the wish giver--the angel. It also works as a straightforward reminder that, in the face of staggering social problems, a smile in chance encounters has power. Not for the average story-hour crowd, but this title will be of great value to libraries in which whole language demands new creative uses for picture books for older readers, writers, and thinkers. --Kate McClelland, Perrot Memorial Library, Greenwich, CT

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