THE SWAN'S STORIES

Alderson (The Brothers Grimm, p. 299, etc.) translates 12 stories, some of which he previously published (e.g., in his edition of Andrew Lang's The Yellow Fairy Book, 1980, etc.). ``The Steadfast Tin Soldier'' and ``The Fir Tree'' are here, but so are stories about the lives of other inanimate objects: darning needle, collar, porcelain toys. Among Andersen's classics, these stories are relatively obscure, of interest only to adult laborers in the children's book field: They seem set up to house sarcastic social commentary (``The Collar''), and many just trail off instead of ending. ``The Money Pig'' ends as a piggy bank crashes to the floor, but the action in the story is almost incoherent to contemporary children. ``Grief,'' about a child who lacks the trouser-button entry fee to gain a glimpse of a pug dog's grave, trammels budding interest with this closing line: ``So that's the story, and if any of you don't understand it, then you can go and take some shares in the widow's tannery.'' A swan—a Father Gooselike figure—leads children from story to story, but doesn't make it any easier for them to drink. Riddell's charmingly appropriate full-color illustrations and black-and-white spot drawings, as well as the meticulous and graceful layout, make the book a welcome addition to any shelf- -but getting children to read it is an entirely different matter. (glossary) (Fiction/folklore. 7-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1997

ISBN: 1-56402-894-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1997

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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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An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda.

BOOKMARKS ARE PEOPLE TOO!

From the Here's Hank series , Vol. 1

Hank Zipzer, poster boy for dyslexic middle graders everywhere, stars in a new prequel series highlighting second-grade trials and triumphs.

Hank’s hopes of playing Aqua Fly, a comic-book character, in the upcoming class play founder when, despite plenty of coaching and preparation, he freezes up during tryouts. He is not particularly comforted when his sympathetic teacher adds a nonspeaking role as a bookmark to the play just for him. Following the pattern laid down in his previous appearances as an older child, he gets plenty of help and support from understanding friends (including Ashley Wong, a new apartment-house neighbor). He even manages to turn lemons into lemonade with a quick bit of improv when Nick “the Tick” McKelty, the sneering classmate who took his preferred role, blanks on his lines during the performance. As the aforementioned bully not only chokes in the clutch and gets a demeaning nickname, but is fat, boastful and eats like a pig, the authors’ sensitivity is rather one-sided. Still, Hank has a winning way of bouncing back from adversity, and like the frequent black-and-white line-and-wash drawings, the typeface is designed with easy legibility in mind.

An uncomplicated opener, with some funny bits and a clear but not heavy agenda. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-448-48239-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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