The XX Factor

Book of the Week: The Lonely Phone Booth

Picture books often willfully ignore new technologial gizmos, creating a sweet but odd “old-fashioned oasis from the hustle of modern life,” as the children’s book author Erica S. Perl points out in this fabulous slideshow . In the new kids’ book The Lonely Phone Booth , playwright Peter Ackerman imagines the corner of West End Avenue and 100th Street in New York City left bereft by their disuse of a phone booth. If you are touched by the nostalgia that fills the books of Virginia Lee Burton ( fabulous slideshow #2 ), author of Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel , you will feel a pang as yappy cell phones drive the phone booth to neglect that includes peeling paint and cracked windows.

Our hero rises again when a storm knocks out the cell phone signals and the citizens of New York line up and discover that the land line on the corner still works. The ballerina finds out she got a part in The Nutcracker , a secret agent wishes his grandmother happy birthday, and a zookeeper rounds up wild animals on the loose. The phone booth is rewarded with a plaque and a respite from the dump. I don’t quite share the impulse to sentimentalize this particular urban object, but Peter (who is a friend from college) manages a tone that appealed to my husband and me and our kids. The zippy illustrations by Max Dalton complement the story: The flower on the shelf of the refurbished phone booth at the end is an especially nice touch.