Despite a few good poems and the much-needed subject matter, the end result lacks cohesion.

UNDER THE MAMBO MOON

Durango’s ambitious, inventive poetry collection on Latino music and dance covers an enticing subject but ultimately tries to do too much.

During the summer, Marisol helps her father run his music store. This store attracts a plethora of Latino characters, many of whom long for the music of their home countries. Marisol’s first-person free-verse poem frames 14 one-page poems, each titled after different characters. The book alternates between Marisol’s evening at the store and these other poems, which appear in duos and trios until Marisol’s own verse on the title mambo ends the collection. VandenBroeck’s illustrations also rotate, from black and white for the frame narrative to color (replete with grinning, rosy-cheeked characters) for the individual poems. The shorter verses vary in style and length, including free verse, rhymed and concrete poems. Musical styles range from mariachi to vallenato, while the dances cover everything from the cha-cha-cha [sic] to the tango. Adding to the wave of characters, musical styles and dances are Spanish words with few, if any, textual clues, although the author does discuss each style briefly at the book’s end. While a few poems allude to the tumultuous backgrounds of some of the styles, the author’s note glosses over colonization and slavery in Latin American history.

Despite a few good poems and the much-needed subject matter, the end result lacks cohesion.   (author’s note, glossary) (Poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: July 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-57091-723-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2011

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An apt choice for collections that already have stronger alternatives, such as R.J. Palacio's Wonder (2012).

UGLY

A memoir of the first 14 years in the life of Australian Robert Hoge, born with stunted legs and a tumor in the middle of his face.

In 1972, Robert is born, the youngest of five children, with fishlike eyes on the sides of his face, a massive lump in place of his nose, and malformed legs. As baby Robert is otherwise healthy, the doctors convince his parents to approve the first of many surgeries to reduce his facial difference. One leg is also amputated, and Robert comes home to his everyday white, working-class family. There's no particular theme to the tale of Robert's next decade and a half: he experiences school and teasing, attempts to participate in sports, and is shot down by a girl. Vignette-driven choppiness and the lack of an overarching narrative would make the likeliest audience be those who seek disability stories. However, young Robert's ongoing quest to identify as "normal"—a quest that remains unchanged until a sudden turnaround on the penultimate page—risks alienating readers comfortable with their disabilities. Brief lyrical moments ("as compulsory as soggy tomato sandwiches at snack time") appeal but are overwhelmed by the dry, distant prose dominating this autobiography.

An apt choice for collections that already have stronger alternatives, such as R.J. Palacio's Wonder (2012). (Memoir. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-425-28775-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Brisk, broad, often funny…and more than just peddling the medals.

ON YOUR MARK, GET SET, GOLD!

AN IRREVERENT GUIDE TO THE SPORTS OF THE SUMMER GAMES

An overview of Olympic and Paralympic events, with notes on rules, history, special gear, and epic feats and fails.

After quick intros to the ancient and modern games—and a timeline of the latter that, in a spirit of optimism, runs to 2020—this handbook goes on to cover some 40-plus events or classes of event, including sport climbing and skateboarding, both putatively debuting in 2020. Each entry arranges quick bursts of fact, historical background, basic rules of play, and medal tallies of renowned winners around a large, stylized central scene showing racially and ethnically diverse competitors in vigorous action; occasionally snarky commentary adds a chuckle or two (Wrestling: “A combat sport in which two athletes in singlets roll around on a mat cuddling each other until one of them can’t move anymore”). Along with individual entries for goalball and boccia, which are exclusively Paralympic events, versions of each sport as adapted for athletes with disabilities get nods throughout. Despite a claim at the outset that it’s “all about the medals!” every entry also includes general advice about the hazards and pleasures of participating in each sport at any level of skill. Readers will come away with a good overall view of the summer Olympics, if not a complete tally—in sailing alone, as Allen notes, there are 10 to 15 races in each of eight different events—plus a look at 19 exciting sports or games that may one day be added, like break dancing or…well, bowling.

Brisk, broad, often funny…and more than just peddling the medals. (index) (Nonfiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1398-0

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Nosy Crow/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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