The Mayor Of Central Park by Avi- 4 stars!
Today's Tea Choice: Green Mountain Coffee, sugar cookie seasonal flavor
Trigger Warnings: Minor shooting scene, otherwise very clean book
Genre: Middle Grade/YA Historical Fiction with anthropomorphic characters
Oscar Westerwit, a squirrel who loves baseball and Broadway musicals, fights back when a gangster rat named Big Daddy Duds and his thugs move uptown in the year 1900, invade Central Park, and evict Oscar and his animal friends from their homes.
Even though it’s spooky season (horror reviews to come!) I was really intrigued with the cover and initial summary of this Avi book. So far, I’ve read a lot of his middle grade/YA historical fiction novels, so this was a refreshing change from the usual.
What I loved:
POV: The story is told through an unknown news reporter who heard about the incredible tale (or should I say tail?) in Central Park of Oscar Westerwit and his baseball battle with Big Daddy Duds, the rat mob boss! Even though this was told from another person, there is a familiar style to this, as if the reporter is giving you private access to his story and everything that happened in between.
Setting/Historical Context: The setting details are beautifully described, which is common for many of Avi’s novels. I loved reading about the park details, the animals’ homes in trees along with the landmarks of Central Park. In terms of historical context, we definitely see hints from an earlier time based on speech patterns and how Maude is treated, Big Daddy Dud’s daughter. He wants her to stay at home, be a good mother/wife figure one day and well, do nothing, like her mother Bertha. He also doesn’t want Maude to have a career, but she defies him to be a nurse.
Characters: Of course, I loved Oscar! He was such a fun character to follow, a romantic at heart who loves to sing, dance, and keep people happy. He reminded me of classic male leads in musicals based in NY. Maude was also a fantastic character since she follows her own path during a time where women were expected to be obedient. The most prominent character arc was Oscar’s. He learns that just because Maude is a rat doesn’t mean she’s a crook like her father, reminding readers not to judge based on race or family.
Dialogue: The dialogue in this piece was very authentic! As a born-and-raised New Yorker, I loved reading the accents, especially when they said “youse.” While it’s not super common anymore, I still hear this occasionally from the older crowd. Avi also mastered dialogue by not overusing dialogue tags.
What Needed Improvement:
Alliteration was a common device used throughout the novel and created really fun moments and sayings! However, this device was used in almost every sentence, which created too much repetition. Otherwise, the novel was well written with an excellent story.
Authors Can Learn:
How to create fun, anthropomorphic characters
The importance of authentic dialogue with minimum tag usage
How to create a authentic historical details in setting
Readers Will Love This For:
A fun and quick story that has a realistic New Yorker flair!
I give this book 4 stars.