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SIX WORDS, MANY TURTLES, AND THREE DAYS IN HONG KONG

A weekend in the life of a Chinese girl in Hong Kong is the subject of this photo-essay from McMahon (Chi-Hoon, 1993), who does a good job of drawing universal parallels and regional distinctions. Eight-year-old Tsz Yan's school day may seem orderly and rigorous, but familiar faces—Minnie Mouse, Garfield—make appearances, allowing US readers to identify immediately. The 1998 fusion with China looms, leading to Tsz Yan's sensible musings—``Will Hong Kong still be itself when it becomes part of something so big?'' Then it is on to after-school daycare and homework—always homework—before her mother comes home from her day job and Dad returns from China, where he toils all week, for the weekend. Saturday and Sunday are a buffet of Hong Kong pleasures: feeding bread to the turtles, a visit to the Ocean Park amusement complex, a ferry ride to Kowloon, a snack at McDonald's, a breakfast of dim sum, cousins watching Jackie Chan on television, family gatherings. Through it all, Tsz Yan saws away at her homework, mostly English words that she neatly ties in to the cultural stew of Hong Kong. The book is an excellent slice of living theater—with the text rolling along, the full- color photographs sharp, the colors and array of sights blinding, and the mood disarmingly matter-of-fact and authentic. (Nonfiction. 7-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-395-68621-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1997

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CORALINE

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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HOW TÍA LOLA CAME TO (VISIT) STAY

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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