SOROTCHINTZY FAIR

First, this is not Gogol's lengthy original—a ribald, satirical picture of village life in the Ukraine, a story that turns on peasant gullibility, takes anti-Semitism for granted (Gogol is also merciless toward women, and everyone else), and is as rich in pungent detail as Washington Irving's tales—a grand piece of social history that would surely be problematic out of context, by one of Russia's 19th-century masters. Now, this text: reduced to one-fifth, a faithful outline of most of the events, this American translation of a German adaptation for children reads well enough, but almost all of Gogol's vibrant tapestry of peasant life has vanished, along with so many details of plot and character that the truncated remnant is puzzling at best—it's not even clear that the devils here are figments of rural credulity. But Spirin's illustrations, evidently inspired by the full text, are splendid. Known for his lush, romantic paintings for fairy tales (most recently The White Cat, 1990), this Russian artist uses his considerable skill here to far more interesting effect. Swirling, Brueghel-like crowds of lusty peasants—some rendered in vivid hues and others, drained of color, in a cinematic haze—mix with half-fantastic pigs and devils that seem to protrude through rips in the parchment-like paper: superb, imaginative response to Gogol's earthy story. The two belong together (publisher, please note!); meanwhile, these illustrations are too good to miss. (Fiction/Picture book. 8+)

Pub Date: April 10, 1991

ISBN: 0-87923-879-8

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Godine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1991

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

With comically realistic black-and-white illustrations by Selznick (The Robot King, 1995, etc.), this is a captivating...

FRINDLE

Nicholas is a bright boy who likes to make trouble at school, creatively. 

When he decides to torment his fifth-grade English teacher, Mrs. Granger (who is just as smart as he is), by getting everyone in the class to replace the word "pen'' with "frindle,'' he unleashes a series of events that rapidly spins out of control. If there's any justice in the world, Clements (Temple Cat, 1995, etc.) may have something of a classic on his hands. By turns amusing and adroit, this first novel is also utterly satisfying. The chess-like sparring between the gifted Nicholas and his crafty teacher is enthralling, while Mrs. Granger is that rarest of the breed: a teacher the children fear and complain about for the school year, and love and respect forever after. 

With comically realistic black-and-white illustrations by Selznick (The Robot King, 1995, etc.), this is a captivating tale—one to press upon children, and one they'll be passing among themselves. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-689-80669-8

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1996

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

more