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Paterson writes of today's gritty reality in an easily read story about a fourth grader whose father's death has thrown her family out of balance. Momma has moved them to backwater Virginia to live with Daddy's stepmother ("Nurses can always get jobs. They just can't get a lot of money"); Vinnie has lost her home, a best friend, and—because 5-year-old brother Mason hasn't spoken since the funeral—Momma's attention. Grandma, too, is a trial; she buys Vinnie ugly clothes at the Salvation Army and insists on making her teacher an embarrassing Christmas present. Mr. Clayton is Vinnie's one comfort, sensitive to his pupils' troubles and source of unobtrusive gifts—barrettes to hold Vinnie's hair out of her eyes; shoes for Lupe, who only has flip- flops and whose troubles are greater than Vinnie's: her father's in prison for killing her mother (Lupe is sure he's not guilty). Mr. Clayton marries; affection-starved Vinnie feels so betrayed that she slashes his car with her barrette and—in an agony of guilt when Lupe is blamed—lashes out at Mason, who runs away. Repentant, Vinnie goes to look for him, willingly aided by Lupe, whose generosity and plucky survival in the face of local prejudice subtly contrast with Vinnie's unreasoned, more childlike response to her losses. Once again, Paterson sets characters drawn with extraordinary empathy in a story distinguished by its overarching theme. Vinnie is ordinary, fallible; but with the help of Lupe's quietly courageous model of grace—plus the values enduring in her own family—she reclaims her equilibrium. Touching, engrossing, beautifully wrought. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-525-67480-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1993

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Not for the faint-hearted—who are mostly adults anyway—but for stouthearted kids who love a brush with the sinister:...

A magnificently creepy fantasy pits a bright, bored little girl against a soul-eating horror that inhabits the reality right next door.

Coraline’s parents are loving, but really too busy to play with her, so she amuses herself by exploring her family’s new flat. A drawing-room door that opens onto a brick wall becomes a natural magnet for the curious little girl, and she is only half-surprised when, one day, the door opens onto a hallway and Coraline finds herself in a skewed mirror of her own flat, complete with skewed, button-eyed versions of her own parents. This is Gaiman’s (American Gods, 2001, etc.) first novel for children, and the author of the Sandman graphic novels here shows a sure sense of a child’s fears—and the child’s ability to overcome those fears. “I will be brave,” thinks Coraline. “No, I am brave.” When Coraline realizes that her other mother has not only stolen her real parents but has also stolen the souls of other children before her, she resolves to free her parents and to find the lost souls by matching her wits against the not-mother. The narrative hews closely to a child’s-eye perspective: Coraline never really tries to understand what has happened or to fathom the nature of the other mother; she simply focuses on getting her parents back and thwarting the other mother for good. Her ability to accept and cope with the surreality of the other flat springs from the child’s ability to accept, without question, the eccentricity and arbitrariness of her own—and every child’s own—reality. As Coraline’s quest picks up its pace, the parallel world she finds herself trapped in grows ever more monstrous, generating some deliciously eerie descriptive writing.

Not for the faint-hearted—who are mostly adults anyway—but for stouthearted kids who love a brush with the sinister: Coraline is spot on. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-380-97778-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002

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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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