Peppe The Lamplighter

Peppe is part of an immigrant Italian family in New York City at the turn of the 20th century. His mother has died and his father is sick, so he must look for work. He is excited when he finally finds a job as a lamplighter, but his father, thinking it too demeaning, shames him about it. Peppe soon learns that his job is more important than he – or his father – thinks.

Interested in using this resource in your classroom? Check out the posters that go along with this book: Human Resources, Income, Goods and Services, Supply and Demand, Specialization, Interdependence

Comprehension Questions

Why did Peppe look for work since he was only a boy?

His mother had died and his father was sick. Peppe had to earn income for his family to survive.

What kinds of jobs did Peppe seek to earn income?

Sweeping the floor and putting down sawdust in the butcher shop, washing glasses at the bar, making torrone and stringing hazelnuts at the candy maker, boxing cigars.

Why didn't he get those jobs?

There wasn’t enough demand for his human resources (labor). If those businesses had more customers, perhaps they would need Peppe’s human resources, but for now, they didn’t want to hire him.

When Peppe job the job as a lamplighter, did he provide a good or a service?


His father was not happy that Peppe had a job of only lighting streetlights. He wanted him to have a much better job. Was this realistic? Was this fair to expect of Peppe?

No. Peppe was only a boy and did not have many skills (human capital). In order to get a better job, he would need more education and training. That costs money nad takes time. Although Peppe's father loved him, he was sick and had unrealistic expectations for his son.

How did Peppe come to realize that his job was important after all?

When he quit lighting the lamps, the streets were dark and people were asking for him. Also, his little sister was afraid and didn’t come home because of the dark streets

Why did Papa change his mind about Peppe's lamplighter job?

When his daughter didn’t come home because of fear of the dark, he realized that the job was important. Also, maybe he heard the many people talking about why the streets were dark. In an economy, even small jobs have value. We are all interdependent and need one another!

Illustrator: Ted Lewin

Published: 1993

Grade Level: K-4

Accelerated Reader Level/Points: 0.05

Lexile Measure: 570L

Publisher: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books