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Sheila Martin
Author, Illustrator
The Coney Island Book of the Dead
The thrills start in Coney Island, 1957, the evening of Memorial Day, the first night of summer. Brooklyn, a spunky eleven-year-old girl, and her anorexic mother are standing on the boardwalk in the glow of the crimson neon sign of Brooklyn’s gangster uncle’s bar. The ceiling spotlight is cutting a shining cone through the darkly curling smoke revealing Lenny, a rat-pack crooner, seated at the piano playing and singing One for My Baby. He turns toward Brooklyn and gives her an electrifying look as he sings— “We’ll drink, little girl to the end of someone you know…” From then on it’s a wild and dark ride—imbued with Yiddish and Delta folklore—of dysfunctional family crises and musical threats from Lenny, who may be the Angel of Death. This is counterbalanced by Mississippi, a kindly blues singer, who helps Brooklyn heal her grief over the recent death of her grandmother by teaching her to sing the blues.