Books by Erika Tamar

Released: Sept. 1, 2003

Venus Maguire, aging child model, longs for something more. Her commercials for diapers and baby products still air on television, but at age nine, she's getting a little too old for these roles. Her stage mother has indulged her tantrums and pouting over the years, because she wants her daughter to be even more famous than she was as Miss Texas Oil pageant. Now she really doesn't want Venus to spoil her looks while playing soccer. Chock full of cardboard caricatures: Venus with her sparkly crown and advanced knowledge of make up, the striving mother, and the jealous trio of mean girls who thwart Venus as she tries her feet at soccer, this has little to recommend it. While there is a dearth of good sports books for young girls, this effort, with predictable plot—was there any question that Venus would find herself and new friends on the field?—and choppy writing, misses the goal. (Fiction. 7-9)Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 2000

Tamar (Alphabet City Ballet, 1996, etc.) has fashioned a rich narrative around the little-known but remarkable historical phenomenon of the orphan train. The novel opens more than 150 years ago on a train leaving the poverty-stricken tenements of New York City. Three immigrant siblings: Sean the oldest at 13, Deirdre, 11, and Jimmy, 3—have been given away by their destitute, homeless mother. The Children's Aid Society gathers up the three—who, along with dozens of other "orphaned" children, board a train that stops intermittently in rural towns where they are displayed to prospective adoptive parents. Jimmy is the first to be chosen, prompting the devastating realization that they will all be separated. A well-meaning but distant reverend and his cold wife take in Deirdre, who is pegged as an outcast and a charity case within the new and unfriendly community. Terribly lonely and unhappy, she is desperate to find her brothers, so when she finally receives word from Sean, she is determined to follow him to Texas. When a vaudeville show stops in town, she recognizes her chance to get out. Within this group of talented misfits, Deirdre discovers a new kind of family and an outlet for her stunning singing voice. When the act finally arrives in Texas and she is reunited with Sean, Deirdre realizes that she must choose for herself where she belongs. A compelling journey into the past with engaging characters, this story manages to avoid sentimentality, and yet still pulls the heartstrings. (afterword) (Fiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 30, 1996

Marisol Perez, who lives on New York City's Lower East Side, has always loved to dance; when she is given a scholarship to the Manhattan Ballet School, she is thrilled. But she needs someone to take her on the subway, since both her widowed father and older brother work and they won't let her travel alone. She hooks up with the other scholarship student, DesirÇe, a poor Haitian girl whose mother will take them. The book shifts between introducing the world of ballet (and its vocabulary, e.g., leotards, pliÇs, etc.) and current social issues. Marisol's brother comes close to working for a neighborhood drug lord, and anti-cop sentiment affects her relationship with her policewoman Big Sister. Also, Marisol must face her prejudice toward people who live in shelters and the shift in her relationships with friends who are resentful of her involvement in the uptown world of ballet. Tamar (The Garden of Happiness, p. 537, etc.), normally in command of her scenery and setting, is clumsy here; the book is often long-winded. The appeal is in featuring girls from various backgrounds involved in dance, and for that, the book should reach an audience well beyond balletomanes. (Fiction. 8-11) Read full book review >
Released: June 1, 1995

When Katie sees a skinny, matted mutt getting stoned in the junkyard by a bunch of teenage boys, she is struck by the misery in the dog's eyes. She decides to help him, but can't bring him home; no pets are allowed in the projects where she lives. Katie secretly brings food and water for Lucky, as she calls him. Caught sneaking food from home, she confesses to her mom and her aloof stepfather. They allow her to help Lucky with two conditions: that she pays for his food, and that she obtains permission from the mean junkyard owner. Lucky blossoms under her ministrations, but the pending winter looks brutal; Katie builds a doghouse with the aid of her stepfather, and in saving Lucky, saves her family, too. This could have been one sappy story, but Tamar (The Things I Did Last Summer, 1994, etc.) has created a wise, wonderful tale of an ordinary girl who is transformed by the power of love into a self-reliant individual. It's just plain touching. (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 1994

Andy Szabo (The Truth About Kim O'Hara, 1992), spending the summer before senior year at a cottage in the Hamptons, has two aspirations: to succeed in his job at the local newspaper and to lose his virginity. In the dunes he happens on a beautiful young woman playing with a small child: It's Susan Boggs, she says, is an au pair for the wealthy Carlyles. Andy is soon deeply in love, but something is peculiar. Susan's employers are more than strict; she's a virtual prisoner in their elegant home, unable even to use the phone; she warns Andy never to call or come to the house. Still, the two manage to rendezvous, and Andy's love deepens. Meanwhile, working for feisty old Lex Bernstein, he comes to realize that he wasn't hired as a star reporter and also that Lex is a real pro; he resolves to learn everything he can from her. At summer's end, Susan abruptly announces that their affair is over. Bereft, Andy tries to phone but is told there is no Miss Boggs at the Carlyles'. Setting out in the teeth of Hurricane Edna to find out what's going on, he learns Susan's shocking secret, one that will change his life. Andy's coming of age under heartbreaking circumstances makes a bittersweet and compelling story. Andy is appealing and believable; the elusive Susan and the secondary characters are also fully realized. Though the story moves quickly, Tamar (who has never written better) probes deeply into the emotions that make first love so wonderful, and so terrible. A book that should win a wide readership among mature YAs. (Fiction. 14+) Read full book review >
FAIR GAME by Erika Tamar
Released: Oct. 1, 1993

Straight from the headlines: members of a Long Island high- school football team sexually abuse a retarded girl. Exploring causes and results, Tamar outlines the events in a letter to the press from the loyal girlfriend of one of the boys, then flashes back. Three narrators alternate. Laura Jean describes her longtime relationship with Scott (who's just won a scholarship to Dartmouth). Nice but not quite sure of herself, she's classically accommodating; her determinedly positive account depicts Scott as taking arrogant advantage of her good nature. Then Cara tells how she becomes sexually involved with the boys in the pathetic hope of getting a real boyfriend, and details the gang rape—in which she acquiesces, only half understanding the boys' derision. Third narrator Joe Lopez is the one boy to quit the scene just before the rape. Though less subtly portrayed than the young people in Norma Fox Mazer's Out of Control (p. 376), Tamar's characters are carefully individualized, and she does a fine job of depicting a community where such a crime could be excused by some parents and teachers; the explicit details here make it absolutely clear how heinous it is. Believably, to spare Cara still more pain, her mother decides not to press charges; still, the media find out. The legal outcome, left open, is problematic: Cara never said ``No,'' as Laura Jean proves when she interviews Cara, hoping to exonerate Scott. But listening to her, Laura Jean realizes more: Cara's a real person; legally rape or not, the boys' act was unforgivable. Well wrought and compelling. (Fiction. 14+) Read full book review >