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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1991


A charming, true story about the encounter between the boy who would become chancellor at the University of California at Riverside and a librarian in Iowa. Tom†s Rivera, child of migrant laborers, picks crops in Iowa in the summer and Texas in the winter, traveling from place to place in a worn old car. When he is not helping in the fields, Tom†s likes to hear Papa Grande's stories, which he knows by heart. Papa Grande sends him to the library downtown for new stories, but Tom†s finds the building intimidating. The librarian welcomes him, inviting him in for a cool drink of water and a book. Tom†s reads until the library closes, and leaves with books checked out on the librarian's own card. For the rest of the summer, he shares books and stories with his family, and teaches the librarian some Spanish. At the end of the season, there are big hugs and a gift exchange: sweet bread from Tom†s's mother and a shiny new book from the librarianto keep. Col¢n's dreamy illustrations capture the brief friendship and its life-altering effects in soft earth tones, using round sculptured shapes that often depict the boy right in the middle of whatever story realm he's entered. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-679-80401-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1997


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

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