OUT OF ORDER

When a family doubles in number, it’s like shuffling a deck of cards to see who comes out on top. When Lily (11) and Parker’s (9) mom marries Frank, Eric (15) and V’s (13) dad, the pecking order changes for them all. Told in four voices, each set in a different type style, each kid expresses his or her feelings and frustrations. Fireworks erupt when someone breaks Lily’s single sunflower. All fingers point to V who insists she didn’t do it. In revenge, Lily kills V’s tomato plants that she had planned to sell to send soccer balls to Iraqi kids. A rescue plan to raise money for V’s project with a Rock-Scissors-Paper tournament becomes the uniting force. The death of Eric and V’s brother, Parker’s plan to sell Twinkies stuffed with cicadas, gothic Eric’s obsession with Tolstoy and Lily’s analysis of sibling traits according to oldest/youngest are all part of this engaging puzzle of four stepsiblings trying to sort out the pieces of new family relationships. Clever cover, real-life kids, humor and inventive plot detail make this a first-rate read, guaranteed to spur games of RSP. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-59643-061-3

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Deborah Brodie/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2005

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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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