JACOB AND THE STRANGER

An intriguing, beautifully honed allegory concerning Jacob, known by his actions as kind, honest, even smart—yet lazy: ``I don't like to work,'' says he. ``I like to do as I please, to...lie in the grass watching the clouds.'' Still, he finds enough odd jobs to support himself, and one day a mysterious stranger offers him the easiest of tasks: to care for his potted plant for a florin a day, but ``You must return to me all that is mine. If you don't, you will rue the day you were born.'' Soon there emerges from the plant's feathery fronds an entrancing miniature panther that is Jacob's particular companion even after dozens more buds give birth to tiny cats—ocelots, jaguars, cougars—that settle comfortably into his home. When the old man returns, the cats swarm up his clothes and into his pockets—all save the panther, which (in the best outwitting-the-devil tradition) remains with Jacob. Gore, a recent immigrant from the former Soviet Union, makes his US debut with stunning b&w illustrations in ink and acrylic: evanescent, suggestive, with the sinuous cats almost one with their shadowy backgrounds, a dreamlike aura recalling Keeping's brooding art for Garfield's The Wedding Ghost (1986), subtly dramatic characterizations, and, in the end, a sly touch of whimsical humor (this stranger, after all, reveals a benign side). An elegant piece of bookmaking; an enchanting, simple-seeming tale that contrasts provocatively with Aiken's The Shoemaker's Boy (above). (Fiction/Young reader. 6+)

Pub Date: July 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-395-66897-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1994

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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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With comically realistic black-and-white illustrations by Selznick (The Robot King, 1995, etc.), this is a captivating...

FRINDLE

Nicholas is a bright boy who likes to make trouble at school, creatively. 

When he decides to torment his fifth-grade English teacher, Mrs. Granger (who is just as smart as he is), by getting everyone in the class to replace the word "pen'' with "frindle,'' he unleashes a series of events that rapidly spins out of control. If there's any justice in the world, Clements (Temple Cat, 1995, etc.) may have something of a classic on his hands. By turns amusing and adroit, this first novel is also utterly satisfying. The chess-like sparring between the gifted Nicholas and his crafty teacher is enthralling, while Mrs. Granger is that rarest of the breed: a teacher the children fear and complain about for the school year, and love and respect forever after. 

With comically realistic black-and-white illustrations by Selznick (The Robot King, 1995, etc.), this is a captivating tale—one to press upon children, and one they'll be passing among themselves. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-689-80669-8

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1996

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