FAT FANNY, BEANPOLE BERTHA, AND THE BOYS

Calling on the same engagingly dry wit and unique, brisk, present-tense style she used so successfully in Ruthann and Her Pig (1989), Porte creates two more unusual families. Bertha Segal's Dad, who sold ``military hardware,'' has vanished in the Bermuda triangle during a business trip, which leaves Bertha to cope with her little brothers (they're triplets) while her mother holds down two jobs. Her best friend Fanny's parents are rarely home; they're talent scouts who cooperate amiably in business but are secretly divorced. Fanny decides to take tap lessons, hoping to teach the triplets to dance so that they can become adorable stars and solve the Segal's financial problems; but it's Fanny who has turns out to have talent—while, incidentally, the exercise improves her health. Fanny's mom finally reveals the divorce, which is a relief to everyone, especially Fanny; Mr. Segal turns up—he's had amnesia, and is ready for a new job: selling sponges. The offbeat plot here is delightful (though fans may be startled to have a second book featuring the return of a long- lost parent); but it's the deceptively offhand, beautifully honed style, adroitly concealing Porte's unusually perceptive reading of children's needs and concerns, that makes this truly special. A funny book, especially appropriate for sharing aloud. Illustrations not seen.~(Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-531-05928-6

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Orchard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1991

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DONAVAN'S WORD JAR

Donavan's friends collect buttons and marbles, but he collects words. ``NUTRITION,'' ``BALLYHOO,'' ``ABRACADABRA''—these and other words are safely stored on slips of paper in a jar. As it fills, Donavan sees a storage problem developing and, after soliciting advice from his teacher and family, solves it himself: Visiting his grandma at a senior citizens' apartment house, he settles a tenants' argument by pulling the word ``COMPROMISE'' from his jar and, feeling ``as if the sun had come out inside him,'' discovers the satisfaction of giving his words away. Appealingly detailed b&w illustrations depict Donavan and his grandma as African-Americans. This Baltimore librarian's first book is sure to whet readers' appetites for words, and may even start them on their own savory collections. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: June 30, 1994

ISBN: 0-06-020190-8

Page Count: 72

Publisher: HarperCollins

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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