THE DIAMOND TREE

JEWISH TALES FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Fifteen brief stories, some from oral tradition (Eastern Europe, the Middle East, the Orient) and others transcribed as early as the fifth century (in Babylon) or as late as the nineteenth. Full notes give sources and point out parallels with more familiar stories—"The Water Witch," a variant of "Hansel and Gretel," features a Solomonic whale king; the Turkish "Katanya" is a Thumbelina-like child, gift of the prophet Elijah—who also rewards a hard-working rag-merchant in "The Magic Sandals of Abu Kassim." Many of the stories are didactic, but the instruction is always gentle. The philosophically generous tone is dramatically exemplified in "The Bear and the Children": after the mother has rescued her children from the bear's belly, she replaces them with loaves of bread so that "when the bear awoke, his belly was full, and he was perfectly happy"—an extraordinary contrast to the retributive justice in the Grimms' "The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids." Clear, well-honed language, intriguing detail, good pacing, and lots of variety make this an excellent choice for storytellers. Appealing format and Shulevitz's occasional full- page watercolors—elegantly structured, rich with the stories' flavor and wit, and painted in bright, sunny colors that perfectly reflect their lighthearted wisdom—will recommend the book to young readers. A fine collection that belongs in every library. (Folklore. 7+)

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 1991

ISBN: 0-06-025239-1

Page Count: 120

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1991

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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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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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