The Cobble Street Cousins Series by Cynthia Rylant, illustrations by Wendy Anderson Halperin, 55pp RL 1.5
The Cobble Street Cousins is another fantastic emerging reader series by the prolific and amazing Cynthia Rylant. The length and reading level are slightly higher than her Lighthouse Family Series, as is the subject and tone, but if the interest level is high enough readers will make the reach. Rylant's series are the antithesis of the reigning queen of chapter books, Junie B Jones and, while The Cobble Street Cousins may seem a bit too sweet for adult tastes, I have no doubt that there are many parents out there searching for better role models and more out-of-the-ordinary stories that what dominates the shelves today. I also have no doubt that the adventures of the cousins will inspire readers to pursue some creative endeavors of their own after reading.
The titular characters, sisters Rosie and Lily and cousin Tess, are all in the fourth grade and staying with their Aunt Lucy, owner of a flower shop, while their parents tour the world with their ballet troupe for a year. Rosie is "very domestic and loved being at home for any reason at all." Tess sings and wants to be a famous Broadway star and has a record collection that includes opera, blues, jazz and show tunes. She knows "the words to every song she owns." Lily is "very good with ideas and wanted to be a writer when she grew up - a poet - so she listened for ideas in her head all the time." In one book the girls decide to make a miniature of Aunt Lucy's flower shop to surprise her and get a little help and ice cream cones from Aunt Lucy's friend Michael who isn't "interested in the family fortune and simply wants to be a botanist." Wendy Halperin Anderson's illustrations are perfectly matched to Rylant's writing with sweet-faced characters and detail filled artwork that expresses the personalities of the characters wonderfully. For more of Anderson's work, again matched perfectly with the book, check out Mary Ann Hoberman's semi-autobiographical Strawberry Hill. As the series progresses, the cousins start a cookie business, get to be bridesmaids and help plan the wedding reception, learn how to sew, throw a Winter Solstice party and throw a party when their parents return home from their tour.
I would have devoured these books as a child. I loved everything the sisters love and would have identified with each one. I would have loved the creativity and warmth that existed in their home. I would have loved to sit down to tea with my mom (or aunt) every day as the cousins do with Aunt Lucy. I would have loved to wander over to the craft store, stopping to visit a friendly adult who offered to join me AND buy me ice cream afterward as the cousins do with Michael!! And, not having these things in my life as a child, I wanted to read about them. In the absence of any available artwork from the The Cobble Street Cousins books, I have included some of Anderson's other illustrations for you to enjoy.