All the Greys on Greene Street

Book review by
Joly Herman, Common Sense Media
All the Greys on Greene Street Book Poster Image
Girl copes with mom's depression in colorful '80s mystery.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Offers an in-depth look into the workings of an artist's studio. How to care for brushes, how to store oily rags, the stories behind pigments and how colors are made. Olympia also speaks in depth about seeing life the way an artist sees things so that good art can be made. Artists' names and works are mentioned, as are Egyptian gods, goddesses, their purposes.

Positive Messages

You won't get better unless you push yourself. We have to work hard to learn the things we know. Observation is a muscle that artists have to build. If it's not good the first time, don't give up. Friendship can also mean letting someone go their own way. Love can be worth the wait. Don't be afraid to tell a trusted adult if something is happening in your home. Looking is easy, but very few people see. Family can be people who are not related to you, but who truly care.

Positive Role Models & Representations

When Ollie's parents are not caring for her, family friends step in. Apollo, her dad's business partner, takes a keen interest in Olympia and her friends. He makes sure she eats, helps her make art, even cares for her every day when she is injured. Alex's rather uptight mom takes care of Olympia when she needs care, taking her to her summer home for a long weekend and giving her stability during an unstable time. Olympia stays at a gallery owner's home to recover from an injury.


Friends hit each other in the arm when angry. A building fire results in hospitalizations.  


Tab, Star Wars, Atkins Diet, Beverly Hills Diet, Pritkin Diet, Coke, Blackwing pencils, Goldbergs Peanut Chews, Pecan Sandies, AlienPeople magazine, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, PBS. Local restaurants in New York City, like Hwa Ya and Serendipity. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Olympia's mother smokes cigarettes, which Olympia buys for her at the local bodega. Her mom smokes a lot, and Ollie cleans her ashtrays. Adults drink beer and wine in the evenings.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that All the Greys on Greene Street is a mystery that deals with parents' separation and a mother's descent into depression. Olympia, the 12-year-old main character, describes a tween's-eye view of neglect and abandonment. She doesn't know where her meals are going to come from, and whether her artist dad will come home, or when her mom will finally get out of bed. The year is 1981, and the story takes place in downtown New York City, where Olympia's mom sends her to buy cigarettes at the local bodega. Olympia's friend's mother is always on a diet, which affects the kids because the food in the house changes with her diet whims. Adults drink casually but keep a careful eye on the kids, for the most part. The book includes spot pencil illustrations by Kelly Murphy. 

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What's the story?

In ALL THE GREYS ON GREENE STREET, set in gritty SoHo in 1981, Olympia (also known as Ollie) is the only kid living on her New York City block. Most of the buildings are abandoned factories -- with a few artist lofts like her own sprinkled among them. Her best friends, Richard and Alex, live within a few blocks of her, and they walk to school together, go the park, hang out in Olympia's dad's studio, or work on Richard's journal of monsters. What Olympia does the most is draw in her notebook. Ollie's parents are artists, and they live, breathe, talk, walk art. But her dad has disappeared under a cloud of mystery, and her mom has taken to her bed and isn't responding to Olympia's pleas to get up and start working again. Ollie is convinced that if she solves the mystery surrounding her dad's disappearance, he'll come home. But what will she do if she can't put the pieces together in time? How can she ask for help when she thinks she's betraying her parents? 

Is it any good?

Rich in detail and aching with sadness, this story unravels what it means to live among artists who see art in everything. All the Greys on Greene Street, Laura Tucker's debut, invites readers to step into another place and time, when New York was dirty, the punk women at the adult parties wore silver combat boots, street artists jumped fences to paste up posters, and artist lofts in SoHo were a new idea. Kids with an artistic eye or urban tastes will enjoy this honest rendering. The sounds of the trucks outside of the window unloading their wares, the slurping of noodles at a favorite restaurant in Chinatown, the colors springing to life in the studio's mixing palette are vividly and memorably rendered. 

However, for a book claiming to be a mystery, the mystery reads like a side note. It can't really compete with the throb of the city and the emotional riptide dragging Olympia's mother deeper into depression. The reactions that the characters have to the mysterious disappearance are more compelling than the mystery itself. Like the description of a city kid being taken outside of the urban core for the first time; it's riveting to get a glimpse of a boat ride through Olympia's eyes, and to feel her fall asleep in a room that is really, truly quiet. At its core, this book is a trip through the lens of an artist. Its appeal to ask for help when things are too overwhelming is on point. Though it seems to end a bit too conveniently, the destination is worth the ride.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about depression in All the Greys on Greene Street. How does Olympia cope with her mother's inability to function like a healthy mom? Which trusted adults could she have talked to about it?

  • The kids in this book don't have cell phones or tablets. How do they cope with their boredom? What do Olympia's friends do when they're hanging out with each other that's different from what kids do now?

  • Olympia's father leaves the family for mysterious reasons. How do kids in movies or books cope with separation or divorce? How is it different from real life?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love art and coming-of-age stories

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