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THE GODMOTHER TREE

Like Katherine Paterson's The Smallest Cow in the World (1991), a book that depicted a Vermont farm family and was first published by the Vermont Migrant Education Program. Here, Laura, 10, and her family may not be typical migrants—a nearby uncle is a successful businessman, and her great-aunt, a physician, lives in South America—but their experience of moving from farm to farm, the parents overworked and underpaid and the kids feeling unwelcome in each new school, is painfully familiar. Their new place is a large but rundown house that Mom tackles with vigor; meanwhile, hardworking Dad, who loves farming, depends on the three children for help. Still, this owner is essentially fair and Dad's job is unusually secure. Meanwhile, a mysterious outbreak of vandalism is traced to middle child Ryan, disturbed by the latest move; gentle brother Luther, 16, is deeply depressed after accidentally killing a pair of fawns, but is comforted with Laura's help and his own artistic gift; and Laura finds sanctuary in a beautiful old tree where she goes to read. Things may work out a little too easily—Ryan's troubles are swiftly identified and effectively addressed, while everyone wins prizes at the county fair—but the setting is beautifully realized, the family interestingly idiosyncratic, warm, and believable, the social problems realistically portrayed. A likable story with real insights. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: May 30, 1992

ISBN: 0-06-022457-6

Page Count: 120

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1992

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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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FRINDLE

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

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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1996

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