Spaghetti Park by DyAnne DiSalvo
Rating: 5 Stars
Summary: Angelo and his grandfather, along with other residents of their Italian-American neighborhood, restore a park and create a bocce ball court in the midst of the parks trouble-making inhabitants. When they find that their work has been destroyed, they decide to begin again and are surprised that some of the troublemakers themselves pitch in to help.
Spaghetti Park was such an enjoyable read for me, as I was able to relate to Angelo’s relationship with his grandfather. I grew up in a half-Italian family and, like Angelo, learned how to play bocce ball with my own grandpa. I liked reading as they worked together to restore to its original beauty the park that had become a hangout for the rowdy troublemakers. The ending is particularly gripping in that these very same kids turn from destroying the park to helping in the effort to restore it. This really shows the importance of standing for what you believe in, and I couldn’t help but feel proud that Angelo and his grandpa worked hard and were able to see the fruits of their labor. This particular lift in tension helps contribute to the lighter mood as everyone enjoys the park together at the end and revels in a sense of satisfaction in what they have achieved. In addition, as the reader we are able to “make adjustments in what we think the story is about” through this shift in tension (Peterson & Eeds, 2007, p. 37). Just when the outlook is gloomy, everyone comes together and I was left feeling happy and wanting to play bocce right along with them.
This story would be an interesting choice for a class read-aloud because it is a socially conscious multicultural book. As the troublemakers, elders of the neighborhood, and Angelo work to restore the park, we see how these different social groups end up coming together. I think this message is pertinent for students as they are at some point likely to face social conflict among peer groups. With this book, I might consider having students share in groups, if they are comfortable, a situation they have faced when someone else opposed them and challenged to destroy their ideas or dreams. Angelo’s determination to do what is right is a great model to inspire students to stand firm in their beliefs and try to work together with others rather than engaging in confrontation or disagreement.