UNDER THE BANYAN TREE

Six months after her mother runs away from home, Irena hitches a ride to Key West to start a new life. After some initial hardship, she lands a job as a chambermaid in a down-at-the-heels motel called the Banyan Tree. Hardworking and conscientious, she’s immediately accepted by Carlotta, the motel’s Earth-mother proprietor, and her cheerful brother Antonio. Also living with them is the persnickety and pregnant Lynette, a parsimonious young woman who is not delighted at Irena’s presence as it means another mouth to feed. In time, Irena comes to share Lynette’s financial concerns, as she can’t help but notice that the guests are few and far between. This is not a perfect story; some of the action is implausible, the secondary characters don’t ring true and the ending, though delightful and charming, is also implausible. Still, it’s a very likable piece with a sympathetic heroine, and the central theme—how kindness and tenderness can turn strangers into kin—is enormously appealing. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: June 15, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-8234-1965-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2007

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WHAT THE MOON SAW

When Clara Luna, 14, visits rural Mexico for the summer to visit the paternal grandparents she has never met, she cannot know her trip will involve an emotional and spiritual journey into her family’s past and a deep connection to a rich heritage of which she was barely aware. Long estranged from his parents, Clara’s father had entered the U.S. illegally years before, subsequently becoming a successful business owner who never spoke about what he left behind. Clara’s journey into her grandmother’s history (told in alternating chapters with Clara’s own first-person narrative) and her discovery that she, like her grandmother and ancestors, has a gift for healing, awakens her to the simple, mystical joys of a rural lifestyle she comes to love and wholly embrace. Painfully aware of not fitting into suburban teen life in her native Maryland, Clara awakens to feeling alive in Mexico and realizes a sweet first love with Pedro, a charming goat herder. Beautifully written, this is filled with evocative language that is rich in imagery and nuance and speaks to the connections that bind us all. Add a thrilling adventure and all the makings of an entrancing read are here. (glossaries) (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-73343-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2006

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THE SUMMER I TURNED PRETTY

Han’s leisurely paced, somewhat somber narrative revisits several beach-house summers in flashback through the eyes of now 15-year-old Isabel, known to all as Belly. Belly measures her growing self by these summers and by her lifelong relationship with the older boys, her brother and her mother’s best friend’s two sons. Belly’s dawning awareness of her sexuality and that of the boys is a strong theme, as is the sense of summer as a separate and reflective time and place: Readers get glimpses of kisses on the beach, her best friend’s flirtations during one summer’s visit, a first date. In the background the two mothers renew their friendship each year, and Lauren, Belly’s mother, provides support for her friend—if not, unfortunately, for the children—in Susannah’s losing battle with breast cancer. Besides the mostly off-stage issue of a parent’s severe illness there’s not much here to challenge most readers—driving, beer-drinking, divorce, a moment of surprise at the mothers smoking medicinal pot together. The wish-fulfilling title and sun-washed, catalog-beautiful teens on the cover will be enticing for girls looking for a diversion. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 5, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4169-6823-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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