NOBODIES AND SOMEBODIES

Suddenly finding herself in a new school at midyear because of her dad's transfer, Laura's hopes of making friends are thwarted by her new fifth grade's competing cliques. She's just getting to know nice Janet when she hurts Janet's feelings by courting the ``Supes,'' a rich, talented, snobbish-seeming trio: Beth has famous parents, Liz dances, and Vero ``used to swim with dolphins.'' When a second club forms around Janet, Laura finds herself excluded from both. Two events cause all the girls to reassess what's going on: a sensible teacher requires Janet and Beth to list their real similarities and differences; Vero's mother and stepfather, in all innocence, throw her a surprise swimming party—not realizing that a traumatic boating accident with Jencks, the perpetual-adolescent father with whom Vero lived until a few months ago, has left her terrified of her favorite sport. Orgel, whose best-known book is The Devil in Vienna (1978), raises this above formula with her carefully selected incidents and perceptive characterizations. The alternated narrations of Laura, Janet, and Vero reveal that there are no villains here, just normal children—some with loving families and others who have effectively been neglected, some with new situations to contend with but all both fallible and trying to do the best they can. Easily read, but not simplistic; a satisfying, carefully crafted story. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: July 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-670-82754-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Viking

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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