SACRED FIRE

In another collaboration with Howell, Wood (Dancing Moons, 1995, etc.) uses poetry and prose to tell of the Pueblo people of the Southwest, a story at once melancholy and wonderfully dense with cultural landscapes. The hardship suffered by the Pueblos after the Spanish occupation brings a concurrent sense of survivance, and of holding tight to the cosmology, rituals, and pacing of their everyday lives. The story is told by the Old Man, guardian of the Sacred Fire, one of the four great elements and symbolic of longevity, hope, wisdom, and purification. While the Sacred Flame is central to the book, Wood ranges far and wide, into Sun Dances and corn ceremonies, community and tradition. The poems can be incantatory; some are simple explication (“What came with us in the Beginning Time?/Turtle Spirit./What comforted us in the Middle Way?/Buffalo Spirit”), while others are more elusive (“We are afraid to remember obsidian,/because it reminds us of pain”). Salted between poems are pieces through which Old Man fills the gaps, sketches in the memories, locates what abides: spirit, humility, grace, generosity. Howell’s artwork is arresting, with an emotional lucidity that conveys powerful people, facing adversity without losing their way. (Poetry. 9-11)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32515-0

Page Count: 74

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1998

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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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EAGLE SONG

A rare venture into contemporary fiction for Bruchac (The Circle of Thanks, p. 1529, etc.), this disappointing tale of a young Mohawk transplanted to Brooklyn, N.Y., is overstuffed with plotlines, lectures, and cultural information. Danny Bigtree gets jeers, or the cold shoulder, from his fourth-grade classmates, until his ironworker father sits him down to relate—at length- -the story of the great Mohawk peacemaker Aionwahta (Hiawatha), then comes to school to talk about the Iroquois Confederacy and its influence on our country's Founding Fathers. Later, Danny's refusal to tattle when Tyrone, the worst of his tormenters, accidentally hits him in the face with a basketball breaks the ice for good. Two sketchy subplots: Danny runs into an old Seminole friend, who, evidently due to parental neglect, has joined a gang; after dreaming of an eagle falling from a tree, Danny learns that his father has been injured in a construction- site accident. A worthy, well-written novella—but readers cannot be moved by a story that pulls them in so many different directions. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-8037-1918-3

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1996

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