In Our Corner Grocery Store, Joanne Schwartz’s tribute to neighborhood and family, a little girl spends Saturdays with her Italian-American grandparents, who run the store referred to in the book’s title. We spend the day at the store with Anna Maria, as her Nonno and Nonna manage to fit looking after their grandchild into the many chores and relationships that their business brings. Anna Maria helps out, too, making the rows of vegetables neat and displaying the breads in their bins.
It’s not all work, though; the child also finds time to make chalk drawings on the sidewalk with her friend Charlie. After the lunch rush, Nonno makes her a special sandwich. “I bite into it and crumbs scatter over my shirt. The creamy cheese and salty meat taste fresh and delicious.” When Nonna puts together stuffed mushroom caps for dinner, young readers learn how to make the dish along with Anna Maria.
Laura Beingessner’s delicate illustrations document the waves of customers who come and go, the charming little store itself, even the steps in Nonna’s recipe. The tone of the text and pictures provides mesmerizing, relaxing encouragement to slow down and appreciate each simple task. There are no crises or plot complications in this sweet picture book. The pace is slow, the relationships are warm, and life is simple—not necessarily easy, but still, simpler than the lives of most families these days.
For parents reading to very young children, the book offers many opportunities to identify grocery items pictured individually, as well as to talk about the scenes and the people in the full page illustrations. The text is also a good challenge for precocious young readers to try out on their own.
Our Corner Grocery Store may read like a report from another world, or at least another era, for overscheduled, urban, twenty-first century parents and children. Perhaps spending a little time in such a tranquil world will bring some of its almost forgotten pleasures to precisely the harried kids and adults who need them most.