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A YOUNG PAINTER

THE LIFE AND PAINTINGS OF WANG YANI, CHINA'S EXTRAORDINARY YOUNG ARTIST

An enormously talented Chinese painter, born in 1975, is the subject of this profusely illustrated biography. ``Yani'' is especially fortunate in her father, also an artist, who firmly believed (despite tradition) that Yani's art should be allowed to develop naturally, with minimal instruction and no classical exercises such as copying others' work. From her first promising scribbles at two, he provided the materials she needed; by the time she was three, she was recognized as a prodigy—a judgment that the beguiling art so beautifully reproduced here fully justifies. At six, her work was exhibited in Europe; she had a one-person show in 1989 at the Smithsonian. The authors touch lightly on Yani's apparently privileged background, focusing on the evolution of her art in response to her increasing skill, maturing interests, and enriching experiences (including travel) deliberately provided by her father. Dimensions and Yani's age at the time of painting are cited for each picture reproduced (though not locations—were some of the thousands of paintings sold? Is Yani also a commercial success?); two foldouts allow a better view of more extensive works; photos show the happy, intent girl at work at many ages; a detailed appendix describes the tools and techniques of the traditional style that Yani adapts to her highly individual work. A handsome book—and a fascinating, lucidly written portrait of a uniquely creative artist. Glossary; maps; index. (Biography. 9+)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-590-44906-0

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1991

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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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A YEAR DOWN YONDER

From the Grandma Dowdel series , Vol. 2

Year-round fun.

Set in 1937 during the so-called “Roosevelt recession,” tight times compel Mary Alice, a Chicago girl, to move in with her grandmother, who lives in a tiny Illinois town so behind the times that it doesn’t “even have a picture show.”

This winning sequel takes place several years after A Long Way From Chicago (1998) leaves off, once again introducing the reader to Mary Alice, now 15, and her Grandma Dowdel, an indomitable, idiosyncratic woman who despite her hard-as-nails exterior is able to see her granddaughter with “eyes in the back of her heart.” Peck’s slice-of-life novel doesn’t have much in the way of a sustained plot; it could almost be a series of short stories strung together, but the narrative never flags, and the book, populated with distinctive, soulful characters who run the gamut from crazy to conventional, holds the reader’s interest throughout. And the vignettes, some involving a persnickety Grandma acting nasty while accomplishing a kindness, others in which she deflates an overblown ego or deals with a petty rivalry, are original and wildly funny. The arena may be a small hick town, but the battle for domination over that tiny turf is fierce, and Grandma Dowdel is a canny player for whom losing isn’t an option. The first-person narration is infused with rich, colorful language—“She was skinnier than a toothpick with termites”—and Mary Alice’s shrewd, prickly observations: “Anybody who thinks small towns are friendlier than big cities lives in a big city.”

Year-round fun. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2000

ISBN: 978-0-8037-2518-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2000

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