TREE GIRL

In this short fantasy novel, nine-year-old Rowanna, who lives in an isolated cottage with an old fisherman she calls Master, longs to learn more about her mother. Master has forbidden Rowanna to enter the woods near the cottage, which he claims are full of dangerous tree ghouls. But a playful young bear coaxes Rowanna into the woods and after they becomes friends, she spends her days there. On High Hallow Eve, the two friends take a day-long journey to find the tree where Master discovered Rowanna as a baby. A wild night ensues when the tree spirits emerge and dance with joy, and Rowanna learns the secret of her mother, who is a willow tree. The revelation, though, creates a major inconsistency in the fantasy, causing the reader to wonder why the mother’s tree spirit didn’t simply rescue Rowanna years earlier. Barron (The Wings of Merlin, 2000, etc.) writes lyrically about the forest and seasons, but he has unfortunately tried to give the language an old-fashioned sound by repeated use of words like “mayhaps” and “aye.” He also relies heavily on exclamation points and italics to add emotion. For example, when Rowanna sees a drawing in the sand, she realizes, “It was the face of the master himself! Aye, that it was!” The uncomplicated, slightly predictable story will appeal only to fantasy and fairy-tale lovers who can overlook the often stilted prose. Forsooth. (Fiction 8-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-23457-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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THE COLOR OF MY WORDS

This standout novella lustrously portrays Ana Rosa and the rich simplicity of her family’s daily life in the Dominican Republic. The linked vignettes and elegant prose vitalize the merengue music, colorful houses, as well as the people’s poverty and the tyranny of the government. Each chapter begins with one of Ana Rosa’s lovely rhythmic verses. A poet and writer at age 12, she steals bits of paper to record everything she sees, hears, and imagines. Ana Rosa’s family is very close by necessity, but it is her beloved brother Guario who has the job that supports them. As the novella proceeds, dark shadows begin to slink through the gentle days. We learn that Ana Rosa’s father drinks too much rum and Coke, especially on Sundays, when he becomes a lurching spectacle. Then an official informs the villagers that to build a hotel, the government has sold the land on which their families have lived for generations. The villagers band together, Ana Rosa writes an article, and her brother Guario becomes their passionate leader. But when the day of the standoff arrives, the villager’s words and rocks are nothing against the guardia’s guns and bulldozers. The heartbreaking result is Guario’s death. Without diluting the sorrow, Joseph (Fly, Bessie, Fly, 1998, etc.) illustrates the good arising from the tragedy as the government cancels the hotel project and Ana Rosa begins writing the life of her brother. This is an achingly beautiful story that will awaken profound emotions in the reader. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2000

ISBN: 0-06-028232-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2000

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