A YEAR WITHOUT RAIN

Twelve-year-old Rachel, devastated to learn of her father’s impending nuptials to the local school teacher, devises a cunning plan to drive her away. The story takes place at the end of the 19th century in the Dakotas, where a yearlong drought has devastated the family farm. The extreme shortage of water compels their father to send Rachel and her brother to Atlanta to stay with their aunt. Although their mother died several years earlier, a discovery of her letters about her courtship and early marriage while staying in her childhood home reawakens the pain of losing her. Rachel is shocked when, close on the heels of these revelations, their father declares his intent to remarry. The plot moves in a predictable fashion; Rachel’s anger manifests itself in a rash act, resulting in sobering consequences that in turn calm her raging emotions and enable her to welcome her stepmother with equanimity. Rachel’s budding talent as an artist, inherited from her mother, lifts this tale beyond the ordinary. Love’s (I Remember the Alamo, 1999) descriptions of Rachel’s artistry give readers a view of the world from an artist’s perspective: “In the background was Mama’s grave, a green rectangle beneath the shady poplar trees. I’d painted the river and the sheep grazing in a spring meadow, and the brown ribbon of road unspooling toward the horizon.” Love handles the emotionally charged subject with compassion tempered with honesty; there are no saints here, adult or child, just raw feelings that will strike a sympathetic chord in reader’s hearts. An absorbing period piece addressing a universal theme with which contemporary readers can readily identify and which is spared mediocrity by Love’s eloquent prose. (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: April 15, 2000

ISBN: 0-8234-1488-4

Page Count: 118

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2000

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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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THE COLOR OF MY WORDS

This standout novella lustrously portrays Ana Rosa and the rich simplicity of her family’s daily life in the Dominican Republic. The linked vignettes and elegant prose vitalize the merengue music, colorful houses, as well as the people’s poverty and the tyranny of the government. Each chapter begins with one of Ana Rosa’s lovely rhythmic verses. A poet and writer at age 12, she steals bits of paper to record everything she sees, hears, and imagines. Ana Rosa’s family is very close by necessity, but it is her beloved brother Guario who has the job that supports them. As the novella proceeds, dark shadows begin to slink through the gentle days. We learn that Ana Rosa’s father drinks too much rum and Coke, especially on Sundays, when he becomes a lurching spectacle. Then an official informs the villagers that to build a hotel, the government has sold the land on which their families have lived for generations. The villagers band together, Ana Rosa writes an article, and her brother Guario becomes their passionate leader. But when the day of the standoff arrives, the villager’s words and rocks are nothing against the guardia’s guns and bulldozers. The heartbreaking result is Guario’s death. Without diluting the sorrow, Joseph (Fly, Bessie, Fly, 1998, etc.) illustrates the good arising from the tragedy as the government cancels the hotel project and Ana Rosa begins writing the life of her brother. This is an achingly beautiful story that will awaken profound emotions in the reader. (author’s note) (Fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2000

ISBN: 0-06-028232-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2000

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