TILL YEAR'S GOOD END

A CALENDAR OF MEDIEVAL LABORS

Nikola-Lisa (Tangletalk, p. 646, etc.) takes readers through an exhausting, contradictory year of peasant labor, ostensibly covering discrepancies in an author's note but creating instead a medieval muddle. Rhyming couplets ride on banners across each spread— ``February/Hunting nets/knot till tight./Wooden bowls/I carve just right''—while paragraphs of explanatory text detail the labors of medieval peasants month by month. Manson's heavily outlined figures labor in relative good humor through the woodcut-like scenes, but don't compensate for the inaccuracies of the project. Before shifting the calendar of the ``medieval agricultural year'' from late September to January, the author introduces readers to the Books of Hours, which had ``the 365 feast days of the Church,'' a number that might have surprised medieval people and which will leave the picture-book set wondering; most scholars report fasting days to number fully half the days of the year. A preoccupation with feasting leads to oversimplification: Nikola-Lisa defines January as ``generally a time of feasting'' and rewards those cutting ripe hay in June with a daily feast, with no mention of autumn harvest celebrations. March finds the farmers engaged in what looks like premature spring planting, and mentions how a cereal crop ``was planted in autumn to be harvested in summer,'' which either belies all sensibility or needs follow-up explication. This is an ill-advised survey, floating blithely over the whole of medieval peasantry and never taking root in a specific geographic area. (Picture book. 7+)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-689-80020-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 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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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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