As neatly summed up in Jan Spivey Gilchrist's attractive jacket art, there are several themes in this warm school-and- family story, set near Washington, D.C. Koya is distressed by a falling-out between her sister Loritha and her best friend Dawn, the result of a spiteful trick Dawn plays on Loritha just before a ``double-dutch'' contest. The jacket's swirling jump-ropes with the two girls suggest a treble clef—even more important than the team competition is a visit from cousin Del, a popular singer. Del's fans' adulation leads to Koya getting in touch with her own emotions: though her inability to express her justifiable anger at Dawn has delayed resolving the bad feelings among the three girls, when the fans drown out Del's music with their enthusiasm her indignation erupts; and once she's felt it, Koya creatively learns to combine righteous anger with her habitual tactic when she's upset—telling jokes, for which she has a special gift. The resolution here is a tad simplistic, and the adults- -though admirable role models—seem a little too good to be true. (Still, it's grand to read about a pop idol who turns down his sound to protect young ears and picks up the litter his admirers have left by his host's door.) The girls are credible and more subtly drawn, their troubles and triumphs engaging. Meanwhile, Greenfield (a much-honored author and poet) narrates with grace and clarity, weaving her several themes into a carefully structured, thought-provoking story that should be a long-lived favorite. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-590-43300-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1992

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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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With comically realistic black-and-white illustrations by Selznick (The Robot King, 1995, etc.), this is a captivating...


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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