Demi describes this handsome but problematic life of the Mongol leader generally known as Genghis Khan as her own ``interpretation...based upon both historical resources and folklore.'' Emphasizing his heroic deeds, genius as a leader, and the sheer magnitude of his empire, she conjures up a warlord to inspire pride, as Diane Stanley did with Shaka, King of the Zulus (1988); like Stanley, she focuses more on the glory than on the gore—the tyrant's horrendous other side. Demi's illustrations are rich with shining gold; they have an elegant simplicity of design and subdued colors suitable to the subject's gravity. The small, simply represented figures, though derived from oriental art, at times seem inappropriately childlike, while the playful camels and horses (especially on the endpapers) are downright coy. Though the book as a whole is beautiful, the style tends to trivialize the subject. Perhaps it's curmudgeonly to complain of the heroic treatment of a national hero; after all, The White Stag (1937) celebrated Attila the Hun, yet won the Newbery. What Demi includes here is fascinating, well-researched, and contains a good many harsh truths. Still, much is omitted, and it's worrisome to present children with such a positive picture of a military leader whose wars were typified by one source as ``ruthless carnage.'' (Biography/Picture book. 7-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1991

ISBN: 0-8050-1708-9

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1991


From the Tía Lola Stories series , Vol. 1

Simple, bella, un regalo permenente: simple and beautiful, a gift that will stay.

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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001


Trickling, bubbling, swirling, rushing, a river flows down from its mountain beginnings, past peaceful country and bustling city on its way to the sea. Hooper (The Drop in My Drink, 1998, etc.) artfully evokes the water’s changing character as it transforms from “milky-cold / rattling-bold” to a wide, slow “sliding past mudflats / looping through marshes” to the end of its journey. Willey, best known for illustrating Geraldine McCaughrean’s spectacular folk-tale collections, contributes finely detailed scenes crafted in shimmering, intricate blues and greens, capturing mountain’s chill, the bucolic serenity of passing pastures, and a sense of mystery in the water’s shadowy depths. Though Hooper refers to “the cans and cartons / and bits of old wood” being swept along, there’s no direct conservation agenda here (for that, see Debby Atwell’s River, 1999), just appreciation for the river’s beauty and being. (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7636-0792-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2000

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