WATER BUFFALO DAYS

GROWING UP IN VIETNAM

The village social life and customs in the central highlands of Vietnam prior to the involvement of the US provide an affecting platform for the author's warm memories of a childhood enriched by close relationships with the animals vital to the family's economic survival. Delicate pencil drawings accompany the first-person narrative that shows the role water buffaloes played during dry-season farming and rainy-season hunting. They were creatures of such importance that, when one named Water Jug dies of old age, it is only fitting that he is buried in the graveyard, ``as we had done for all the dead of our family.'' The boy hopes for a new bull with the same gentle temperament as Water Jug's, but his father has always dreamed of a replacement bull that would be not only a valuable worker, but a strong fighter and true leader when tigers, panthers, and lone wild hogs from the jungle threaten the village's herd. The father brings home a calf from a distant village, but delays naming him until his nature makes one apparent. After a fight in which he bests the reigning leader of the herd, the young bull is named Tank. Fierce in battle, Tank's gentleness otherwise earns him the respect of the village, and readers will come to admire him; his death, the result of ``a single misplaced bullet'' in a military skirmish, is very affecting. In Tank's passing, the author brings home the waste of war, in a book written from the heart. (Autobiography. 7-10)

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 1997

ISBN: 0-06-024957-9

Page Count: 122

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1997

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Readers will be waiting to see how Charlie faces his next challenge in a series that marks a lovely change of pace from the...

CHARLIE BUMPERS VS. THE TEACHER OF THE YEAR

From the Charlie Bumpers series , Vol. 1

Charlie Bumpers is doomed. The one teacher he never wanted in the whole school turns out to be his fourth-grade teacher.

Charlie recalls third grade, when he accidentally hit the scariest teacher in the whole school with his sneaker. “I know all about you, Charlie Bumpers,” she says menacingly on the first day of fourth grade. Now, in addition to all the hardships of starting school, he has gotten off on the wrong foot with her. Charlie’s dry and dramatic narrative voice clearly reveals the inner life of a 9-year-old—the glass is always half empty, especially in light of a series of well-intentioned events gone awry. It’s quite a litany: “Hitting Mrs. Burke in the head with the sneaker. The messy desk. The swinging on the door. The toilet paper. And now this—the shoe on the roof.” Harley has teamed once again with illustrator Gustavson (Lost and Found, 2012) to create a real-life world in which a likable kid must face the everyday terrors of childhood: enormous bullies, looming teachers and thick gym coaches with huge pointing fingers. Into this series opener, Harley magically weaves the simple lesson that people, even teachers, can surprise you.

Readers will be waiting to see how Charlie faces his next challenge in a series that marks a lovely change of pace from the sarcasm of Wimpy Kid. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-56145-732-8

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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INDIAN SHOES

A very pleasing first-chapter book from its funny and tender opening salvo to its heartwarming closer. Ray and his Grampa Halfmoon live in Chicago, but Grampa comes from Oklahoma. Six vignettes make up the short chapters. Among them: Ray finds a way to buy Grampa the pair of moccasins that remind him of home and Smith gets in a gentle jab at the commercialization of Native American artifacts. At a Christmas stuck far away from the Oklahoma relatives the pair finds comfort and joy even when the electricity goes out, and in a funny sequence of disasters, a haircut gone seriously awry enables a purple-and-orange dye job to be just the ticket for little-league spirit. The language is spare, clean, and rhythmic, with a little sentimentality to soften the edges. Ray and Grampa have a warm and loving intergenerational bond that’s an added treat. With a nod toward contemporary Native Americans, Grampa tells Cherokee and Seminole family stories, and when Ray gets to be in a wedding party, the groom is Polish-Menominee and his bride is Choctaw. An excellent choice for younger readers from the author of the bittersweet Rain Is Not My Indian Name (2001). (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-06-029531-7

Page Count: 80

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2002

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