Books by Sergio Martinez

CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 31, 2000

This tender version of the Cinderella story comes from the American Southwest. A widow and her two daughters pressure the shepherd Tomás into marriage, and while he spends more and more time with the flocks, his daughter Teresa gets more and more of the chores. When Tomás brings Teresa the gift of a lamb, her stepmother kills it and orders her to wash the fleece. A fish steals the fleece, but Blessed Mary appears to her, and asks her to care for Joseph and the Child for a day. Teresa is rewarded for her kindness by the return of the fleece, and the Virgin touches her forehead so a gold star appears there. When Teresa returns home, the stepsisters are fierce with jealousy, mocking her with the name Estrellita de Oro (Little Gold Star), but when each of them in turn tries for the fleece and the gold star, they fail the kindness test and get horns and donkey's ears instead. Still, when Don Miguel gives a fine party, the sisters vie for his attention, mantillas over their protuberances. As is to be expected he has eyes only for Teresa, who is then sent home by her stepmother. Don Miguel finds her through the offices of their cat, but the stepmother sets three impossible tasks for Teresa before she will give permission for the marriage. Mary blesses Teresa again, the tasks completed, Teresa and Don Miguel marry, and even the stepsisters learn kindness until their donkey ears and horns disappear. There's a wonderful translucence to Martínez's watercolors: light seems to shine through the roses in the Virgin's path, the candles at Don Miguel's, even the stepsisters' black lace mantillas. Little Gold Star has a lovely face, and the stepmother and sisters are properly grumpy. In a year full of Cinderella variations, this one is a welcome addition. (Fairy tale. 6-9)Read full book review >
A BALLAD OF THE CIVIL WAR by Mary Stolz
CHILDREN'S
Released: Nov. 30, 1997

Stolz (Coco Grimes, 1994, etc.) fleshes out—barely—a sentimental Civil War ballad about brothers who share a hobby horse, and years later, another steed in the aftermath of battle. Tom Rigby's excitement as he awakens on his ninth birthday changes to outrage when he learns that the slave Aaron, a companion to him and his twin for most of their lives, has been summarily ``sent to the quarter'' by their father to be a field hand. Although he listens reluctantly to the warnings of the household slaves (who maintain that making a fuss will only endanger Aaron), Tom defiantly gives his birthday toys away to the slave children. He has an argument with twin Jack, who echoes their father's advocacy of slavery, although the rift isn't wide enough to prevent him from sharing his hobby horse when Jack's breaks. Twelve years later, Tom—a Union officer—recalls that time as he offers a ride to a wounded Confederate soldier who only looks too familiar. Stolz focuses more on her characters' emotional states than on plot or background detail, and readers who are less familiar with the era will wonder why Aaron was sent away, and why the slave children have to hide their new toys from the overseer. Paul Fleischman's Bull Run or Gary Paulsen's Nightjohn (both, 1993) afford more insight into the realities of slavery and of what Stolz calls ``this brothers' war.'' (b&w illustrations, not seen) (Fiction. 9-11) Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: Nov. 30, 1996

Meltzer (Hold Your Horses!, 1995, etc.) presents a sobering overview of the tools and techniques of battle, from prehistoric times to the present, in an intelligent, direct, and necessarily brief style: The subject is so immense that he doesn't spend too much time on any particular topic. The evidence is appropriately depressing: As far back as 10,000 b.c., people have been fighting each other. Diligent reportage on the technological development of weaponry is skillfully accompanied by Martinez's consummate charcoal illustrations that depict these weapons, famous battles, and warriors throughout history. The bloody trail that stretches from wooden clubs to thermonuclear bombs is full of horrors. The reasons for the origins of war are basic enough to grasp: Primitive man fought over lack of food or the possession of a mate. As the reasons for armed combat became more sophisticated, so did the weapons. Meltzer's discussion is more than just a rehashing, and readers will enjoy the intriguing connections the author makes, e.g., between modern ballistic missiles and ancient slingshots and stones. His recitation of statistics regarding current handgun sales within the US and his subsequent appeal to the basic humanity of young readers are the book's best lessons of all. (Nonfiction. 8-12) Read full book review >