THE TWINS AND THE BIRD OF DARKNESS

A HERO TALE FROM THE CARIBBEAN

San Souci (The Birds of Killingworth, p. 572, etc.), one of the premier promoters of the folkloric tradition, always provides a careful author’s note detailing the origins of his stories, several of which have recently come from the Caribbean. This tale comes from Guadeloupe and the author states that it “is composited in the main from thirteen variant tales” collected by Elsie Clews Parsons as well as other tales by Philip Sherlock and Lafcadio Hearn. San Souci also mentions that the story has European roots. The motifs in the story, the good brother and the evil brother; the princess who has to be rescued, and the slaying of a monster with the help of magic, are all common enough in many cultures and usually make for an exciting story. The text has its dramatic high points, but unfortunately, the narrative is undermined by the illustrations. With the exaggeration and cartoon-like style of Widener’s (If the Shoe Fits, p. 189, etc.) paintings, this hero tale seems less than heroic. Sure, the princess is rescued, but the beads of sweat all over the hero’s body, when he tries to get out of the ravine into which he has fallen, look like a grade-B comic book. The large eyes and round heads of the characters have a silly, almost stereotypical look that just doesn’t work with this type of serious traditional tale. The clothing and the palace do not belong in the Caribbean. Only when the Bird of Darkness with its seven rainbow-colored heads appears, does the book reverberate with any real power. (author’s note) (Picture book/folktale. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-689-83343-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2002

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NIM'S ISLAND

A child finds that being alone in a tiny tropical paradise has its ups and downs in this appealingly offbeat tale from the Australian author of Peeling the Onion (1999). Though her mother is long dead and her scientist father Jack has just sailed off on a quick expedition to gather plankton, Nim is anything but lonely on her small island home. Not only does she have constant companions in Selkie, a sea lion, and a marine iguana named Fred, but Chica, a green turtle, has just arrived for an annual egg-laying—and, through the solar-powered laptop, she has even made a new e-mail friend in famed adventure novelist Alex Rover. Then a string of mishaps darkens Nim’s sunny skies: her father loses rudder and dish antenna in a storm; a tourist ship that was involved in her mother’s death appears off the island’s reefs; and, running down a volcanic slope, Nim takes a nasty spill that leaves her feverish, with an infected knee. Though she lives halfway around the world and is in reality a decidedly unadventurous urbanite, Alex, short for “Alexandra,” sets off to the rescue, arriving in the midst of another storm that requires Nim and companions to rescue her. Once Jack brings his battered boat limping home, the stage is set for sunny days again. Plenty of comic, freely-sketched line drawings help to keep the tone light, and Nim, with her unusual associates and just-right mix of self-reliance and vulnerability, makes a character young readers won’t soon tire of. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-81123-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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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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