ROUGH SKETCH BEGINNING

In a work that attempts to capture the creative process of seeing and drawing, sparse, poetic descriptions of the natural world by Berry (Don't Leave an Elephant to Go and Chase a Bird, 1995, etc.) combine with crisp, labeled landscape studies, sketches, and paintings by Florczak (illustrator of Audrey Wood's The Rainbow Bridge, 1995). The link between text and illustration, always critical in a picture book but particularly crucial in this one, is established from the outset: ``I saw the sun/a bearded saint in bliss/curled in a face of fire'' is accompanied by three different views of clouds that extend the metaphor not literally—there are no saints or faces—but abstractly, only hinting at curly, fiery, beard-like shapes. Thus Florczak adds to the text by interpreting it with a poetry of his own. What becomes clear to readers is that the ability to look at the surrounding world and reproduce it, not just as it is but with interpretive license (in words or paint) and understanding, separates the artists from the replicators and recorders. Not all of the scenes illuminate the words so well: A creek is too placid for the line ``a silver road selfmade/ignoring boundaries,'' and despite an artist's note explaining a cumulative, four-page painting that incorporates the sketched elements into an idealized whole, it still works against the more humble pages that have preceded it. Those pages imply a trust, nudging readers to glean their own dramatic insights into the ways of the poets and artists. (Picture book. 7+)

Pub Date: April 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-200112-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1996

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Simple, bella, un regalo permenente: simple and beautiful, a gift that will stay.

HOW TÍA LOLA CAME TO (VISIT) STAY

From the Tía Lola Stories series , Vol. 1

Renowned Latin American writer Alvarez has created another story about cultural identity, but this time the primary character is 11-year-old Miguel Guzmán. 

When Tía Lola arrives to help the family, Miguel and his hermana, Juanita, have just moved from New York City to Vermont with their recently divorced mother. The last thing Miguel wants, as he's trying to fit into a predominantly white community, is a flamboyant aunt who doesn't speak a word of English. Tía Lola, however, knows a language that defies words; she quickly charms and befriends all the neighbors. She can also cook exotic food, dance (anywhere, anytime), plan fun parties, and tell enchanting stories. Eventually, Tía Lola and the children swap English and Spanish ejercicios, but the true lesson is "mutual understanding." Peppered with Spanish words and phrases, Alvarez makes the reader as much a part of the "language" lessons as the characters. This story seamlessly weaves two culturaswhile letting each remain intact, just as Miguel is learning to do with his own life. Like all good stories, this one incorporates a lesson just subtle enough that readers will forget they're being taught, but in the end will understand themselves, and others, a little better, regardless of la lengua nativa—the mother tongue.

Simple, bella, un regalo permenente: simple and beautiful, a gift that will stay. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-80215-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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TOMAS AND THE LIBRARY LADY

A charming, true story about the encounter between the boy who would become chancellor at the University of California at Riverside and a librarian in Iowa. Tom†s Rivera, child of migrant laborers, picks crops in Iowa in the summer and Texas in the winter, traveling from place to place in a worn old car. When he is not helping in the fields, Tom†s likes to hear Papa Grande's stories, which he knows by heart. Papa Grande sends him to the library downtown for new stories, but Tom†s finds the building intimidating. The librarian welcomes him, inviting him in for a cool drink of water and a book. Tom†s reads until the library closes, and leaves with books checked out on the librarian's own card. For the rest of the summer, he shares books and stories with his family, and teaches the librarian some Spanish. At the end of the season, there are big hugs and a gift exchange: sweet bread from Tom†s's mother and a shiny new book from the librarianto keep. Col¢n's dreamy illustrations capture the brief friendship and its life-altering effects in soft earth tones, using round sculptured shapes that often depict the boy right in the middle of whatever story realm he's entered. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-679-80401-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1997

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