In Laura Tucker’s All the Greys on Greene Street, Ollie, a gifted artist, is content living with her artist parents in a loft in New York City. But then her father leaves for France, accompanied by a woman whom Ollie and her mother playfully nickname “Vooley Voo.” One week later, the playfulness has vanished, and Ollie’s mother will not get out of bed. Ollie strives for normalcy as she attends school, hangs out with her two best guy friends and goes to visit Apollo, her father’s partner in his art restoration business. Due to her mother’s urgent, hushed phone conversations and a desperate man who appears at their door, it becomes apparent that a mystery surrounds Ollie’s father and his departure, which coincided with the disappearance of a valuable piece of art. This is a lot for 12-year-old Ollie to puzzle out, and she becomes fiercely protective of her mother and refuses to accept the truth of her mother’s depression.
There is a beguiling naturalness to Tucker’s depiction of Ollie and her troubles. Ollie is observant and reflective, allowing the reader full access to her emotional upheaval. Her best friends are genuine and loyal but clumsy in their attempts to help. Apollo is kind but distantly adult. Perhaps the most lovely element of the book is the infusion of art: Ollie’s art, rendered in pencil drawings, is sprinkled throughout the book, and there are discussions of art technique, art in museums and, most instructively, the provenance of art displaced by war.
All the Greys on Greene Street is a poignant and well-structured debut novel that’s sure to satisfy young readers.