Matlin’s intimate insights into being American, female, and deaf infuse the character of Megan, a charming, dynamic, and cantankerous girl, excited that a potential friend her age has moved next door. Her new, hearing neighbor, Cindy, has just moved into the most compelling experience of her life, as she becomes the immediate, sworn, off-and-on best friend of an uncommonly accomplished lip-reading girl who doesn’t take no—or any type of criticism—lightly. The characters are envisioned in common-place settings living out the American preadolescent experience in an upper-middle-class lifestyle, one where the world that is built for hearing people bends to every strategic move made by Megan. Her experience is only made possible by intense effort and her family’s well-adjusted, mature, and kind approach to an active life. Megan has tasted of every good character-building experience, except summer camp; despite her clear objection and her fear of being bored—or worse: ignored—she manages to place herself at the center of everyone’s attention. The plot suffers when Matlin loses sight of its pace and inserts overlong explanations of apparatus used by individuals with hearing disabilities; because the information is more informative than descriptive, it impedes the pace which slows to a dead stop. Though the usefulness of the information is high in terms of knowing facts about the common ways that deaf people function, Matlin’s story goes beyond bibliotherapy, so it’s unfortunate that the simple and rather leaden text will only appeal to a small group. Megan’s rather unique character begs a sequel, but for a broader range of readership. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-689-82208-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2002

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Simple, bella, un regalo permenente: simple and beautiful, a gift that will 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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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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