BALONEY (HENRY P.)

It’s “Permanent Lifelong Detention” for Henry P. Baloney, unless the tardy alien can come up with “one very good and very believable excuse” for Miss Bugscuffle. Henry earnestly spins the tale of his near-disastrous trip to school: “I misplaced my trusty zimulis, then I . . . um . . . found it on my deski. But . . . someone had put my deski in a torakku.” The Math Curse (1995) team of Scieszka and Smith combine talents once again, this time to celebrate wordplay in its near-infinite variety. Henry’s story is peppered with words from such diverse sources as Estonian, French, and Inuktitut (there’s a “decoder” in the back). Each time a new word occurs for the first time, it is set off in yellow type—the trick is to decode it through illustrations (“zimulis” clearly applies to a standard-issue Quest pencil, number “ZZ”) and from context (“I jumped smack in the middle of a . . . razzo launch pad.”). Henry himself is an appealingly bug-eyed, freckle-faced green urchin who leaps, fast-talks, and erases his way through a retro-looking space-age world, learning the hard way the importance of linguistic accuracy when he forgets the Astrosus word for “thank you,” using instead the word for “doofbrain.” Clearly intending to do for words what the previous book did for numbers, the illustrations and narrative sizzle along in a madcap rush until the story is brought to an abrupt halt when the humorless Miss Bugscuffle decides to allow Henry to apply his talents to the day’s assignment of writing a tall tale. Carefully—if zanily—adhering to the “three-finger rule” (no more than three unfamiliar words per page), Henry P. Baloney’s story might go a long way toward convincing kids that learning to read is an adventure in itself. If only all pedagogy were this much fun. (Picture book. 6-12)

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-670-89248-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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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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HELLO, HARVEST MOON

As atmospheric as its companion, Twilight Comes Twice, this tone poem pairs poetically intense writing with luminescent oils featuring widely spaced houses, open lawns, and clumps of autumnal trees, all lit by a huge full moon. Fletcher tracks that moon’s nocturnal path in language rich in metaphor: “With silent slippers / it climbs the night stairs,” “staining earth and sky with a ghostly glow,” lighting up a child’s bedroom, the wings of a small plane, moonflowers, and, ranging further afield, harbor waves and the shells of turtle hatchlings on a beach. Using creamy brushwork and subtly muted colors, Kiesler depicts each landscape, each night creature from Luna moths to a sleepless child and her cat, as well as the great moon sweeping across star-flecked skies, from varied but never vertiginous angles. Closing with moonset, as dawn illuminates the world with a different kind of light, this makes peaceful reading either in season, or on any moonlit night. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2003

ISBN: 0-618-16451-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2003

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