Books by Marc Talbert

CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 1, 2001

Girls inoculate sheep and cattle, milk cows, chop ice with an ax, drive tractors, and successfully hunt bucks in this "ride through cowgirl life" that follows four girls in their everyday ranch activities. Besides mastering their ranch work, they also participate in other pastimes like sewing, building doll houses, and playing basketball. The girls, who range in age from elementary school to high school, live on ranches in Western states, most of them far from town. The photographs and text emphasize their competence and confidence as they work long hours at chores in addition to their schoolwork. Readers learn about ranch animals and their care, including more than one grim description of castration. While Talbert, better know for his novels (Small Change, not reviewed, etc.), does not romanticize the relentless work of ranching, he does paint untroubled pictures of the families, who all appear cheerful and close-knit. Readers may also have a few questions about the girl who is home-schooled yet does no schoolwork in the two weekdays described, except for a trip to a bull auction labeled "educational." As the narrative progresses through the seasons from fall to spring, lyrical descriptions of weather and terrain bring the girls' environments vividly to life. Horse and cowboy fans will enjoy the Western details, while readers looking for expanded roles for girls will welcome the stories of these four capable cowgirls. (Nonfiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
STAR OF LU°S by Marc Talbert
Released: March 22, 1999

While addressing themes of identity, family history, racism, and coming of age, Talbert (Heart of a Jaguar, 1995, etc.) doesn't focus enough on any one issue to give his book power. Attending school and Sunday mass, watching baseball games in the park, and hosing the clay off his father when he comes home from the brick factory are the routines that fill teenaged Lu°s's life in East Los Angeles. Life changes dramatically, however, when his father joins the fighting ranks of WWII, and Lu°s's mother receives news that her estranged father is dying. Coping with his father's absence, Lu°s must also adjust to a new way of life when he moves to his mother's childhood home in small Las Manos, New Mexico. It is hard for Lu°s to adapt to the simple farm life, but with the help of two uncles, he learns to love its charms. He also uncovers the truth about his family and their hidden Jewish heritage. While Lu°s grapples with a shifting sense of self, he and his mother return to Los Angeles where even more changes wait. Talbert skillfully draws contrasts between the city—with its sometimes simmering melting pot—and the more contained Las Manos; his knack for atmosphere, imagery, and characterization save the novel from its hastily developed themes and hurried, surface relationships. (glossary) (Fiction. 12-14) Read full book review >
HEART OF A JAGUAR by Marc Talbert
FICTION
Released: Oct. 1, 1995

For readers who believe that ancient civilizations make for dry and dusty realms, Talbert (The Purple Heart, 1992, etc.) offers a heart-stopping story of mythic proportion. Balam can no longer remember the taste of maize, the grain that once served as his people's primary source of nourishment. In these lean times, the villagers have tried everything to appease the gods—short of the prescribed human sacrifice—and have begun speaking out against their holy man. When raiders from a nearby village steal first Balam's betrothed and later the precious maize kernels that are the village's future, the bachelors follow them into the forest. Balam, too, goes into the forest intending to join the bachelors, but the gods give him a different mission—to slay a jaguar and bring back his heart as a gift of appeasement. Balam comes across a greatly weakened jaguar and, with the aid of a herd of peccaries and his own cunning, returns to the village draped in the jaguar's skin, clutching its heart. Readers will feel their own hearts gripped as the story hurtles toward its terrible, inevitable conclusion. In carefully honed language, Talbert reverently captures the violent beauty of the ancient Mayan culture and creates a hero of extraordinary courage and generosity. (glossary, bibliography) (Fiction. 12+) Read full book review >
THE PURPLE HEART by Marc Talbert
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 28, 1992

``He understood that everything was messed up and that nothing was going to get better anytime soon.'' Luke's father, Patrick, is coming back from Vietnam, but when they meet at the Des Moines airport, Luke's heroic visions crumple: Instead of the laughing, robust figure he remembers, his father—who is recovering from a wound—is bitter, incontinent, and exhausted. Luke finds a Purple Heart in his father's footlocker and pockets it; he drops it while playing a minor prank, but gets it back from his father after a tornado hits town and he overcomes his fear of storms to save an elderly neighbor. Despite the tornado, there's not much drama here; what readers will pick up from the low-key story is the ironic contrast between Luke's fondness for playing war with a bloodthirsty friend (``how many gooks did your dad kill?'') and the heavy reality and evident cost of his father's experience— and also, perhaps, the tension between father and son that builds and, at the end, eases. (Fiction. 10-13) Read full book review >
PILLOW OF CLOUDS by Marc Talbert
FICTION
Released: April 1, 1991

By an experienced novelist for young people, a thoughtful examination of a boy forced into a painful decision. Under the terms of his parents' divorce, Chester must choose, at 13, with whom he will live. A summer in Santa Fe persuades him that he prefers his father, who runs a small bookstore and lives with an artist. Returning to Iowa to tell his rich, neurotic mother, he is at first trapped by her need, but is released when a telephone call from his father reveals his choice. Chester goes back to Santa Fe—only to be confronted, as he begins to settle in, with his mother's attempted suicide. Plot here is less compelling than characterization and atmosphere. Talbert's description of New Mexico is especially vivid; the other characters take form in Chester's mind as he ponders his reactions to each new emotional dilemma. A reflective, slow-moving, but rewarding portrait of a boy coming to terms with the adults around him.~(Fiction. 12+) Read full book review >