SHARK IN SCHOOL

Matthew Jackson is about to attend a new school, but that's not the worst of it: He hasn't done his summer reading because he thinks he doesn't know how to read, and he only has one friend, J.P. When school begins, the horrors mount. The other kids don't like J.P.—who's a girl, to boot—and he inadvertently breaks a box of the teacher's ornaments. Matthew hides in fear from his teacher, a.k.a. The Shark, and from J.P., who he's sure will never forgive him when she discovers he's making new friends. But the teacher forgives him; J.P. lends him a book that is so absorbing—about a boy who dies of a bee sting—that he reads it, although he thinks he doesn't know how; and he sets out to return a few favors to the people who have been so good to him. Giff (Next Year I'll Be Special, 1993, etc.) crams in a few too many themes: peer pressure and fear of reading, new places, new people, and teachers. Although the story is diffuse in the beginning, Matthew's voice is so appealingly realistic that it carries us through. A solid book that accurately depicts many of the heartaches of the first days at a new school. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-385-32029-9

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1994

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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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With comically realistic black-and-white illustrations by Selznick (The Robot King, 1995, etc.), this is a captivating...

FRINDLE

Nicholas is a bright boy who likes to make trouble at school, creatively. 

When he decides to torment his fifth-grade English teacher, Mrs. Granger (who is just as smart as he is), by getting everyone in the class to replace the word "pen'' with "frindle,'' he unleashes a series of events that rapidly spins out of control. If there's any justice in the world, Clements (Temple Cat, 1995, etc.) may have something of a classic on his hands. By turns amusing and adroit, this first novel is also utterly satisfying. The chess-like sparring between the gifted Nicholas and his crafty teacher is enthralling, while Mrs. Granger is that rarest of the breed: a teacher the children fear and complain about for the school year, and love and respect forever after. 

With comically realistic black-and-white illustrations by Selznick (The Robot King, 1995, etc.), this is a captivating tale—one to press upon children, and one they'll be passing among themselves. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-689-80669-8

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1996

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