F IS FOR FABULOSO

In an earnest, preachy tale from Lee (Night of the Chupacabras, 1998, etc.), a Korean-American seventh grader copes with poor teaching in school and rising tension at home. Two years after moving to Minnesota, Jin-Ha’s mother is still trapped in the family apartment, so afraid to attempt English that she’s unable to shop without a translator, and so isolated that she doesn’t know what the F at the top of Jin-Ha’s math test means. Driven by guilt and humiliation, Jin-Ha resolves to study harder; she gets no help from her lazy, inflexible, insensitive (“You Japanese are going to beat our butts”) teacher, but finds an unexpected ally in hunky classmate Grant Hartwig. In public, he calls her a “friggin’ jap math geek,” justifying himself by saying, “That’s how guys are. You have to prove that you can dish it out and take it, too,” but in private he morphs into a patient math tutor. To compound Jin-Ha’s worries, her father takes to coming home late nearly every night with a vague excuse. The situations are resolved amid a welter of confessions (Jin-Ha’s father is working a second job), stern lectures, and fervent promises, capped by a warm, fuzzy Christmas scene. Although often perceptive, this study in cultural acclimation is weighed down by artificial-sounding dialogue and scarily simplistic characters. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 1999

ISBN: 0-380-97648-X

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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MY LAND SINGS

STORIES FROM THE RIO GRANDE

Fascinated with the Hispanic and Native American folktales of his youth, Anaya (The Farolitos of Christmas, 1995, etc.) has compiled ten stories from time-honored oral traditions, including some passed on in corridos, or songs. The tales hold lessons on respect for elders, the importance of the Catholic faith, reverence for the animal world, the role of luck in a man’s life, and whether or not we should attempt to seek immortality. The wide variety of stories demonstrate a mature understanding of life’s trappings and dangers, but retain a healthy sense of humor about the human predicament. C¢rdova’s black-and-white illustrations capture the magic and beliefs expressed by the tales. (b&w illustrations, glossary) (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 1999

ISBN: 0-688-15078-0

Page Count: 187

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1999

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GOOD NIGHT, MAMAN

Aimed at readers who have already encountered Anne Frank, this riveting historical novel from Mazer (Missing Pieces, 1995, etc.) is based on a little-known chapter of WWII history. Karin Levi’s story begins in a tiny attic room in Paris in the 1940s, where she is hidden away with her brother, Marc, and their mother, practicing the art of quiet. German soldiers are conducting house-to-house searches, rounding up Jews, and the small family is soon on the run, depending on strangers for scraps of food and shelter. When Maman falls ill, Karin and Marc head for Naples without her; the children board the Henry Gibbons, a ship full of European refugees bound for Fort Ontario in Oswego, New York. Upon their arrival in America, their story turns from one of flight and danger to the happiness and sorrow associated with adjusting to a new language, customs, and schooling, and making new friends. Although it is a shock to Karin, it comes as no surprise to readers when Marc reveals that Maman is dead. Mazer skillfully paints Karin as brave and independent, yet depicts her devotion to Maman throughout, writing unsent letters and never losing sight of her belief that one day they will be reunited. Rather than relying on events and facts of the war and its atrocities to create sympathy, the author paints her central character’s thoughts and feelings, her moments of weakness and her strength, so that the story is stirringly understated. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-15-201468-3

Page Count: 189

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1999

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