TOYS!

AMAZING STORIES BEHIND SOME GREAT INVENTIONS

Wulffson follows up The Kid Who Invented the Popsicle (1997) with the sometimes quirky tales behind more than two dozen novelties, gadgets and games, from playing cards and wind-up toys to Play-Doh. Some (tops, seesaws) have long histories, some (whoopee cushions) only seem to have been around forever, and some (Trivial Pursuit) are of recent vintage. The author brushes in their origins and variations with broad strokes, livening the picture further with factoids at each chapter’s end, and Keller’s gnomic, black-and-white cartoon figures lighten the tone further by cracking wise on the side. The generalizations may sometimes shade over into oversimplifications (“There is even an Asian religion based on kite flying”), and there is nothing about Pokémon or other current crazes, but these accounts of the origins of super balls, Raggedy Ann, Legos, Twister, Pong and the like will give middle graders new insight into their parents’ misspent youths—and a bibliography and a list of Web sites will give readers who want all the details a head start. (Nonfiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: July 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-8050-6196-7

Page Count: 137

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 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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EAGLE SONG

A rare venture into contemporary fiction for Bruchac (The Circle of Thanks, p. 1529, etc.), this disappointing tale of a young Mohawk transplanted to Brooklyn, N.Y., is overstuffed with plotlines, lectures, and cultural information. Danny Bigtree gets jeers, or the cold shoulder, from his fourth-grade classmates, until his ironworker father sits him down to relate—at length- -the story of the great Mohawk peacemaker Aionwahta (Hiawatha), then comes to school to talk about the Iroquois Confederacy and its influence on our country's Founding Fathers. Later, Danny's refusal to tattle when Tyrone, the worst of his tormenters, accidentally hits him in the face with a basketball breaks the ice for good. Two sketchy subplots: Danny runs into an old Seminole friend, who, evidently due to parental neglect, has joined a gang; after dreaming of an eagle falling from a tree, Danny learns that his father has been injured in a construction- site accident. A worthy, well-written novella—but readers cannot be moved by a story that pulls them in so many different directions. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-8037-1918-3

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1996

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