In a work that attempts to capture the creative process of seeing and drawing, sparse, poetic descriptions of the natural world by Berry (Don't Leave an Elephant to Go and Chase a Bird, 1995, etc.) combine with crisp, labeled landscape studies, sketches, and paintings by Florczak (illustrator of Audrey Wood's The Rainbow Bridge, 1995). The link between text and illustration, always critical in a picture book but particularly crucial in this one, is established from the outset: ``I saw the sun/a bearded saint in bliss/curled in a face of fire'' is accompanied by three different views of clouds that extend the metaphor not literally—there are no saints or faces—but abstractly, only hinting at curly, fiery, beard-like shapes. Thus Florczak adds to the text by interpreting it with a poetry of his own. What becomes clear to readers is that the ability to look at the surrounding world and reproduce it, not just as it is but with interpretive license (in words or paint) and understanding, separates the artists from the replicators and recorders. Not all of the scenes illuminate the words so well: A creek is too placid for the line ``a silver road selfmade/ignoring boundaries,'' and despite an artist's note explaining a cumulative, four-page painting that incorporates the sketched elements into an idealized whole, it still works against the more humble pages that have preceded it. Those pages imply a trust, nudging readers to glean their own dramatic insights into the ways of the poets and artists. (Picture book. 7+)

Pub Date: April 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-200112-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1996


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


An Algonquin Cinderella story, with accomplished but sometimes overliteral illustrations. A powerful invisible being will marry the woman who can prove that she's seen him; a poor man's two proud daughters try and fail, but the third, her face and hands scarred from tending the fire, has the understanding to see him everywhere in the world and is lovingly received. Martin's retelling is spare and understated, but never dry; the two sisters are richly comic figures, the climax and ending uncontrived yet magically romantic. Shannon (who illustrated Lester's How Many Spots Does a Leopard Have?) expertly picks up the flavor—the sisters positively strut through the village, their noses high and one wearing what looks like a spangled angora sweater—but the lips the Rough-Faced Girl sees hanging in the sky, or the muscular, art-deco cloud figure, seem intrusions rather than integral parts of the natural world. Still, a strong, distinctive tale with art to match. (Folklore/Picture book. 8+)

Pub Date: April 29, 1992

ISBN: 0-399-21859-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1992

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