HEY THERE, OWLFACE

Brad, who lives with his widowed mother on Gramps's midwestern farm, does some significant maturing during the months he observes a pair of barn owls raise their young. Apparently made trusting by Brad's gifts of dead crickets, the owls accept his visits up the hayloft ladder to look at their nest, and later at the owlets. Meanwhile, Brad worries about Cole, Mom's new boyfriend: he enjoys Cole's music but deplores his reckless propensity to shoot at anything that moves (at one point, Cole actually shoots himself in the foot). Brad also makes friends with a girl in his class, gradually coming to accept her embarrassing tendency to talk openly of subjects like affection. The strengths here are the zippy dialogue, Brad's espousal of the owls' cause (he learns their real importance to the economy as pest controllers), and the sobering picture of thoughtless shooting, culminating in the death of the female owl. Unfortunately, weak characterization undermines the story. Cole, especially, except for his banjo and his gun, is an unknown; and since no adequate reason for Mom's (and Brad's) fondness for him is shown, their mixed response to his behavior is insufficiently motivated. Still, an easily read story with appealing b&w illustrations and some solid values. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: June 15, 1991

ISBN: 0-8234-0868-X

Page Count: 86

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1991

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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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With comically realistic black-and-white illustrations by Selznick (The Robot King, 1995, etc.), this is a captivating...

FRINDLE

Nicholas is a bright boy who likes to make trouble at school, creatively. 

When he decides to torment his fifth-grade English teacher, Mrs. Granger (who is just as smart as he is), by getting everyone in the class to replace the word "pen'' with "frindle,'' he unleashes a series of events that rapidly spins out of control. If there's any justice in the world, Clements (Temple Cat, 1995, etc.) may have something of a classic on his hands. By turns amusing and adroit, this first novel is also utterly satisfying. The chess-like sparring between the gifted Nicholas and his crafty teacher is enthralling, while Mrs. Granger is that rarest of the breed: a teacher the children fear and complain about for the school year, and love and respect forever after. 

With comically realistic black-and-white illustrations by Selznick (The Robot King, 1995, etc.), this is a captivating tale—one to press upon children, and one they'll be passing among themselves. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-689-80669-8

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1996

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