UNCLE SHAMUS

Two ten-year-olds, residents of Shanty Town, run errands for one ex-con and help him outwit another. When blind old ``Uncle Shamus'' moves into an abandoned shanty, Marleena and Akers sidle over and are soon drawn into buying things for him, making taxi arrangements, and eventually digging up the money whose theft put him in the pen many years back. When another graduate of the prison shows up determined to find the hidden loot, the children join Uncle Shamus in a plot to get the money, outwit the villain, and help Shamus himself disappear. Much stretches credulity here. Both children are nice, well- mannered, and hard-working, but neither expresses any compunction over receiving the stolen money (except in an offhand way), and while Shamus gives back his share, it is not clear what the children will do with theirs. A kind of nostalgic mist seems to set the book in a previous era: out-of-date names like Shanty Town and Shamus; the lack of violence on the part of hard-core convicts; the trusting way the children's parents allow them to befriend an ex- con, spend his money for him, and accept lavish gifts—and yet the fact that Marleena is white and Akers is black isn't mentioned until late and is never a conflict. Ethically, this is ambiguous, and the simplifications in plot aren't likely to entertain any thinking young person. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 31, 1992

ISBN: 0-684-19434-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1992

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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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The book is a cute, but rather standard offering from Avi (Tom, Babette, and Simon, p. 776, etc.).

POPPY

From the Poppy series , Vol. 3

An adolescent mouse named Poppy is off on a romantic tryst with her rebel boyfriend when they are attacked by Mr. Ocax, the owl who rules over the area.

He kills the boyfriend, but Poppy escapes and Mr. Ocax vows to catch her. Mr. Ocax has convinced all the mice that he is their protector when, in fact, he preys on them mercilessly. When the mice ask his permission to move to a new house, he refuses, blaming Poppy for his decision. Poppy suspects that there is another reason Mr. Ocax doesn't want them to move and investigates to clear her name. With the help of a prickly old porcupine and her quick wits, Poppy defeats her nemesis and her own fears, saving her family in the bargain. 

The book is a cute, but rather standard offering from Avi (Tom, Babette, and Simon, p. 776, etc.). (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-531-09483-9

Page Count: 147

Publisher: Orchard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1995

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