FINN'S ISLAND

The author of the well-received House on the Hill (1987) presents another Scottish family coming to terms with its past. Finn Lochlan and his dad, a teacher forced into early retirement, live with his recently widowed Granny on a farm that Mr. Lochlan is too depressed to manage. Finn's fantasy life centers on Hirsay, the desolate island where Grandpa grew up. When Douglas Cooper comes to do his agricultural training on their farm, all three respond; Finn, especially, warms to the big, hearty man. Then Douglas brings his son, 11 to Finn's 10, for a visit; at first, each boy is wary of the other, but when Finn learns that Chris has frailties to balance the strengths he envies, they become friends. Fulfilling Finn's lifelong dream, he joins the Coopers in an expedition to Hirsay in search of the rare ``pathan'' plant, a potent folk remedy bidding for medical recognition. Hirsay's forbidding weather and terrain manifest why Grandpa and other inhabitants were evacuated 60 years earlier, challenging Finn's idylls with stern reality; worse, heedless vandals have destroyed the pathan with a fire. It turns out, however, that Grandpa kept a small cache of the seeds. Despite some contrivance—e.g., a dramatic cliff-rescue demonstrating both Chris's mettle and Douglas's vulnerability- -these are thoughtfully developed people, and the meshing of their lives is both unusual and believable. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 15, 1992

ISBN: 0-8234-0910-4

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1992

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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 culturas while 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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Not for the faint-hearted—who are mostly adults anyway—but for stouthearted kids who love a brush with the sinister:...

CORALINE

A magnificently creepy fantasy pits a bright, bored little girl against a soul-eating horror that inhabits the reality right next door.

Coraline’s parents are loving, but really too busy to play with her, so she amuses herself by exploring her family’s new flat. A drawing-room door that opens onto a brick wall becomes a natural magnet for the curious little girl, and she is only half-surprised when, one day, the door opens onto a hallway and Coraline finds herself in a skewed mirror of her own flat, complete with skewed, button-eyed versions of her own parents. This is Gaiman’s (American Gods, 2001, etc.) first novel for children, and the author of the Sandman graphic novels here shows a sure sense of a child’s fears—and the child’s ability to overcome those fears. “I will be brave,” thinks Coraline. “No, I am brave.” When Coraline realizes that her other mother has not only stolen her real parents but has also stolen the souls of other children before her, she resolves to free her parents and to find the lost souls by matching her wits against the not-mother. The narrative hews closely to a child’s-eye perspective: Coraline never really tries to understand what has happened or to fathom the nature of the other mother; she simply focuses on getting her parents back and thwarting the other mother for good. Her ability to accept and cope with the surreality of the other flat springs from the child’s ability to accept, without question, the eccentricity and arbitrariness of her own—and every child’s own—reality. As Coraline’s quest picks up its pace, the parallel world she finds herself trapped in grows ever more monstrous, generating some deliciously eerie descriptive writing.

Not for the faint-hearted—who are mostly adults anyway—but for stouthearted kids who love a brush with the sinister: Coraline is spot on. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-380-97778-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002

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