Remember the days when phone booths stood on every street corner? If you had to make a call, you'd step inside the little booth, lift the phone off the hook, put a coin in the slot, listen for the click, push the buttons, and hear it ring? And for only 25 cents, in the quiet of the booth, you could call your grandmother, or let the office know you were running late, or get directions for a birthday party. . .
This is the story of one of the last remaining phone booths in New York City, the Phone Booth on the corner of West End Avenue and 100th. Everyone used it — from ballerinas and girl scouts, zookeepers and birthday clowns, to cellists and even secret agents! The Phone Booth was so beloved that people would sometimes wait in line to use it. Kept clean and polished, the Phone Booth was proud and happy . . . until, the day a businessman strode by and shouted into a shiny silver object, "I'll be there in ten minutes!" Soon everyone was talking into these shiny silver things, and the Phone Booth stood alone and empty, unused and dejected.
How the Phone Booth saved the day and united the neighborhood to rally around its revival is the heart of this soulful story. In a world in which objects we love and recognize as part of the integral fabric of our lives are disappearing at a rapid rate, here is a story about the value of the analog, the power of the people's voice, and the care and respect due to those things that have served us well over time.
With his delightful, witty, and boldly colored illustrations that evoke Miroslav Sasek's mid-century modern aesthetic, Max Dalton simply and elegantly captures the energy and diversity of New York City and its inhabitants. A beauty to behold and a pleasure to read, The Lonely Phone Booth is sure to be a favorite among children and parents alike, and the real Phone Booth, which is still standing at West End Avenue and 100th Street, is worth a field trip!
Evoking the same kind of New York charm as favorites like The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge and The House on East 88th Street, screenwriter Ackerman celebrates a humble phone booth (still standing at 100th Street and West End Avenue) that saves the Upper West Side and vice versa. Fellow newcomer Dalton's retro vignettes set the scene with square-jawed men in skinny ties, Girl Scouts in braids, and assorted neighborhood clowns, ballerinas, and secret agents while Ackerman explains how things used to be. "Each week, phone company workers came to clean and polish the Phone Booth, to collect the deposited coins, and to make sure that its buttons were working properly." The booth has plenty of customers until people start holding "shiny silver objects" to their ears, puzzling the phone booth and eradicating the long lines of callers waiting "just to wish their grandmas a happy birthday." An electrical storm reveals the vulnerability of the cellphone network ("Hey, does this old thing work?" a construction foreman asks, eyeing the dilapidated booth), causing the locals to reevaluate its worth. Cultural history of the best sort. Ages 5 7.