About the Holiday
Since 1972, when Franky Hyle founded the Ding-a-Ling Club, people have celebrated Ding-a-Ling Day by calling up loved ones, friends, and others who they’ve lost touch with to say hi and catch up. These days sending an text or email may be more the thing, but there’s still nothing like hearing a familiar voice excited to reconnect. To celebrate today’s holiday, take a few minutes to call that person you think about sometimes and wonder….
The Lonely Phone Booth
Written by Peter Ackerman | Illustrated by Max Dalton
Once there was a corner phone booth in New York City that everyone used: “A businessman always running late for meetings…. A construction foreman who needed cement…. A zookeeper who lost his elephant…. A ballerina who wanted to know if she got the part in Swan Lake…. Even a secret agent who needed to change his disguise.” Sometimes a long line of people waiting to use the phone snaked down the sidewalk, and every week, the phone booth was visited by maintenance workers who kept it shiny clean. The phone booth was happy.
But one day the phone booth noticed the business man walk right past it while talking on a small, shiny object. The same thing happened with others who always paid a visit to the phone booth. Finally, on Friday, the ballerina popped in, but she was only getting out of the rain while she talked on her small, shiny object. “The phone booth was flabbergasted.” When it found out that the shiny object was a cell phone, “the Phone Booth was devastated.” It worried that no one would need it anymore. And it was right.
Soon, the maintenance workers stopped coming and the Phone Book began to look shabby, with a cracked window, peeling paint, and a dusty interior. “Even the secret agent changed his disguise in the run-down hotel next door.” The Phone Booth saw other phone booths being taken down and driven away from their posts, and it knew that its turn would come soon too.
Then one day a storm knocked out the power and no one’s cell phones worked. People had no way to let friends and family know they were okay. The construction foreman noticed the old phone booth and wondered if it still worked. A girl scout put in her coins and discovered that it did! A long line formed outside the phone booth as everyone waited to make their calls. “The ballerina called to see if she got the part in Swan Lake. She didn’t. But she did get a part in the Nutcracker.” And the zookeeper let the zoo know that he found the elephant and the West African Dik-Dik in a poker game in the city.
When the electricity was restored, the Phone Booth was hailed as a hero. It was given a new window and cleaned inside and out. The mayor even put up a plaque. Just then, though, city workers came to take the Phone Booth to the dump. The Phone Booth was afraid. But “the people of the neighborhood spoke up.” They wanted the Phone Booth to stay. “‘What if there’s another storm?’ asked the ballerina. ‘It’s been here forever,’ said the girl scout. ‘It’s been here forever,’ said the construction foreman.”
Just then the phone in the Phone Booth rang. It was the mayor’s grandmother. She told the mayor that the Phone Booth was a national treasure. The mayor told the city workers that the Phone Booth was staying right where it was. The people of the neighborhood cheered, hugged the Phone Booth, danced around it, and had a party.”
And even now, if you go to West End Avenue and 100th Street, you will find the Phone Booth. Step inside and make a call—”and neither you nor the Phone Booth will be lonely anymore.”
Peter Ackerman’s humorous love letter to the phone booths—and one particular Phone Booth—that once dotted corners, lobbies, shopping areas, and transportation offices in every city may be a revelation to kids, but the personalities who use the phone are familiar and funny, making The Lonely Phone Booth a timeless story. With realistic dialogue and running jokes and appearances by the neighborhood characters, the story flows along like a good connection to its tender ending that gives a nostalgic nod to remembering and embracing history.
In his bright, retro illustrations, Max Dalton infuses the story with the sights, sounds, and flavor of New York. Squared-off four-door sedans, a square-jawed businessman, a rounded construction worker, a triangular clown, and a host of diverse neighborhood personalities harken back to a time when cellphone tech was new. Kids who have never seen a phone booth may well wonder if they’re missing out on a bit of old-fashioned fun.
Ages 4 – 7
David R. Godine, 2010 | ISBN 978-1567924145
To learn more about Max Dalton, his books, and his art, visit his website.
National Ding-a-Ling Day Activity
Telephone Tie-Up Puzzle
These kids want to use a telephone. Can you follow the tangled wires to find a phone for each child in this Telephone Tie-Up Puzzle?
You can find The Lonely Phone Booth at these booksellers
Picture Book Review