"review" · Children's · concenter · Illustrator · Picture book · recommend

{book} a gift of gracias

DAY 07

A Gift of Gracias by Julia Alvarez, Illustrated by Beatriz Vidal

Borzoi Book published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2005.

It should be of no surprise that seeing another picture book by Julia Alvarez would occupy one of the 31 days of October.

“Maria’s family is almost forced to leave their farm on the new island colony, until a mysterious lady appears in Maria’s dream.”—publisher

The new island colony is the Dominican Republic in the early 1500s and the mysterious lady becomes identified as Our Lady of Altagracia (Our Lady of Thanks). She comes to Maria in a dream during a most desperate time. Olives were a more successful crop in Spain where her parents are from and fail to thrive in this new colony. The family will likely lose their farm and have to move to the city. The sweet treat of the oranges her father brings from the port city follow Maria into her dreams where the old Indian Quisqueya instructs her to plant each seed with a word of thanks. She does so and the mysterious lady comes with the miraculous appearance of fully grown and producing orange trees. In an act of faith, so too, does Maria, her parents and Quisqueya plant the orange seeds during the waking. And like her dream, the trees grow and bloom and produce supernaturally. Father and Quisqueya have a crop to take to the city to sell while the rest threaten in their abundance to go to waste.

Father wants to bring home a gift for Maria and she asks for a portrait of some kind of Our Lady of Altagracia. He cannot find her in the city. It is Quisqueya who is able to capture her image by catching stars in a blanket during their journey home. It is Quisqueya who tells Maria that he knows Our Lady as well for she has been caring and gracious to his people as well. The Taino Indian Quisqueya’s name comes from the name of the island before it was renamed by the Spaniards when they colonized the island. Our Lady of Altagracia, though identified through a different religious lens, is a native of the island and eager to help those vulnerable and in need agriculturally. She hears Maria’s plight and responds to her humility. Maria, who is an intersection, born of Spanish parents but on the new island. And the story closes with her “head[ing] down the dark path, the stars of Our Lady’s robe light[ing] her way.” This is a fascinating origin story, and not only of the founding of the virgincita as the Domincan Republic has come to know her, but of a beginning for the new colony that is born of grace, of humility and cooperation with the native person, land, and spirituality—as opposed to other accounts on record.

Beatriz Vidal’s work with gouache is vibrant and warm. Like Julia Alvarez’s story, the dramatic flourishes are left to the events in the story themselves, not in overwrought prose or illustration. Alvarez is a marvelous teller of lore and Vidal’s illustrations have a feel of the folk loric as well. Alvarez shares more about the story in a section at the end shockingly titled “About the Story.” She talks about the different versions of the story, of the virgencita, of Quesqueya’s name, and provides some pronunciations. As she does in The Secret Footprints (Alfred A. Knopf, 2000), Alvarez shares her personal connection to this story of Maria and the gift of gracias. A Gift of Gracias inspires not only a desire to learn more about the culture of the Dominican Republic, but for the reader to find a personal connection to their own cultural lore.

recommendations: for ages 4-8 (and up). and maybe have some oranges on hand…

{all images belong to Beatriz Vidal}

my review of The Secret Footprints.

Uncategorized

{books} saving summer & certain allergies

Today is the last day of the school year for N and we are looking forward to summer. She has already signed up for the Summer Reading Program at the local Library. I need to sign up (they have awesome drawings–even for adults!). So I hope you’ve signed up with your Library. There is Scholastic’s program on-line. And Barnes & Nobles has a program for up through 6th grade, too (w/ forms in English & Spanish). I’m sure there are many more.

We rarely chose books for their Summeryness. But I have read two summery juvenile fictions to add to those summer reading suggestions you’ve been (maybe) hearing about. (recommended both boys & girls, ages 6-10)

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How Tia Lola Saved the Summer (Tia Lola Stories, bk3) by Julia Alvarez, (Alfred A. Knopf, 2011; hardcover, 141 pages) I had been missing this one from the quartet, so now you will have all my thoughts on this fantastic series.

Miguel Guzman isn’t exactly looking forward to the summer now that his mother has agreed to let the Sword family—a father, his three daughters, and their dog—live with them while they decide whether or not to move to Vermont. Little does Miguel know his aunt has something up her sleeve that just may make this the best summer ever. With her usual flair for creativity and fun, Tía Lola decides to start a summer camp for Miguel, his little sister, and the three Sword girls, complete with magical swords, nighttime treasure hunts, campfires, barbecues, and an end-of-summer surprise!–publisher’s comments.

How Tia Lola Saved the Summer is magical and full of fun summer activities and adventures. It also continues with Alvarez’s flair for handling tough issues with a deft hand. As with previous books, Alvarez begins with Miguel, but effortlessly shifts between the perspectives of other characters in following chapters. 7 of the 10 chapters are dedicated to each family member’s troubles they must overcome : Juanita wants to feel special; Victoria, the eldest and maternal daughter wants to be able to be young and carefree sometimes; Mami fears making another mistake (still dealing with her divorce and confronted with a new chance at love)… The chapters hold to a time-line and a quick procession through the week of the Espada’s visit. Miguel’s worries and struggles find some resolutions without being pat. He (and the others) are growing throughout the series–it’s really nicely done.

Tia Lola has a way of making people feel brave. It isn’t that she creates possibilities necessarily, but she makes others aware of them. She is also fun and fosters creativity and community. Alvarez has a way of depicting magic, possibility, humor, and fun without diminishing the sincerity of her characters emotions or situations.

Did I just turn that into a grown-up book? (sigh)…It really is a fun read. And you can bet treasure hunts and smores will ensue!

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Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters by Lenore Look, Pictures by LeUyen Pham, (Schwartz & Wade Books, 2009; hardcover, 170 pages). I adore this series, too.

Alvin Ho back and his worst fear has come true: he has to go camping.What will he do exposed in the wilderness with bears and darkness and . . . pit toilets? Luckily, he’s got his night-vision goggles and water purifying tablets and super-duper heavy-duty flashlight to keep him safe. And he’s got his dad, too. -Publisher’s Comments

Alvin Ho is so freaking hilarious. The binds Alvin finds himself in, and the sweet rescue by his father–and all this before the idea of going camping forms. Believing his older brother Calvin to be wise, Alvin seeks his advice and gear his purchased (via plastic–‘so nobody has to pay for it’). An Uncle shows up to offer his own advice, and amusingly you begin to see a parallel between Uncle and Calvin, and an alignment between Alvin and his father. All set to go, fears still intact, Alvin and father are packed to go–but so is little sister Anibelly.

My favorite parts: The boys playing out camping only to be one-upped by the girls and stranded in school playground trees in their underwear. The steps for setting up the tent. The new friend Alvin makes. Why the children’s insistence on using a toilet instead of a pit was a good idea.

It’s cool to see Alvin overcome fears when it really counts, when we really need him to be heroic. He loves his father who isn’t a superhero but always comes to the rescue anyway. Alvin is able to save his father; of course, how his father gets into trouble in the first place…

Look’s sense of characterization and that comedic timing finds a way to make us laugh with Alvin and his fears without demeaning his fears or his character. These books are silly and sweet and full of tension and marvelous adventure that feels all too gloriously possible.

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both of these books are a taste of childhood. they are good and fun options for summer reading.

"review" · chapter/series · Children's · concenter · fiction · juvenile lit · recommend · series

How Tía Lola Came to (Visit) Stay

How Tía Lola Came to Visit Stay (Book 1) by Julia Alvarez

A Yearling Book (Random House), 2001

Hardcover, 147 pages (w/ 2 page addition of a letter from the author, 2010)

Juvenile Fiction, ages 8-11

Moving to Vermont after his parents split, Miguel has plenty to worry about! Tía Lola, his quirky, carismática, and maybe magical aunt makes his life even more unpredictable when she arrives from the Dominican Republic to help out his Mami. ~Publisher’s Comments

Having raved about Julia Alvarez’s Tía Lola Stories twice already (for books 2 & 4) I will try to keep this post brief.

Había una vez…” Tía Lola begins. Once upon a time…And Miguel feels a secret self, different from his normal everyday self, rising up like steam from a boiling kettle into the air and disappearing inside Tía Lola’s stories. (18)

Tía Lola has a wonderful ability to transport those around her into an other world; one filled with vibrant color, foreign languages, and hope. For the Reader, Julia Alvarez does the same. In the terribly familiar landscapes of divorce, moving homes, rental agreements, new schools, cultural/racial differences, grieving, and heartache, Alvarez does not shy away from the difficulties these things create for her characters. What she does bring is compassion, a different perspective, and some creative solutions. She does this in the form of Tía Lola.

Tía Lola is a bit of a Mary Poppins Nanny McPhee character, but for a few very important distinctions. She appears more vulnerable; she experiences homesickness, she doesn’t want to be a source of embarrassment, she wants to be needed and wanted, and she gets lost. She doesn’t translate effortlessly into situations, not in the way we’ve come to expect anyway. Two, while magical, Tía Lola seems possible. And lastly, she is here to stay. We do not need characters or people like Tía Lola for only a little while, we want and need them around forever.

Tía Lola’s (great)nephew Miguel is the primary interest of the 3rd person narrative. Unlike the following books, which move fluidly and fairly frequently through other characters’ consciousness, How Tía Lola Came to Visit Stay very rarely moves away from Miguel. He is a great character to follow, for plenty of reasons, but I like it because he should appeal to male readers, especially those boys who love sports, their dad, and their mom, is an elder brother (or brother at all), and wants to belong while also wanting to be proud of where he comes from.

Miguel is having a very hard time with his parents’ divorce. He loves his dad and enjoys his dad’s company. His mother moved them away from family and friends for work in a rural town where they are the only brown people at school. He looks and feels like an oddity. He is helpless in witnessing his mom’s grieving of her own lost relationship. He isn’t all that sure of what to do with a sister who wants their dad at family events, too. Now this strange Aunt who is kind of embarrassing and who doesn’t want to learn English comes to visit. And the visit keeps going.

Miguel soon finds that Tía Lola’s presence is a balm, and not just her stories which allow him to escape the harsh realities of his life. She isn’t about running away, but confronting hurts and fears–and finding ways to do this. Tía Lola is also an opportunity for Miguel to discover himself, both individually and culturally. Alvarez finesses some beautiful and inspiring development in her characters, whether they are a protagonist or other. She does this within a single novel, and continues this over the course of the series. Like Tía Lola, reality and its pains are acknowledged, but there is a sincere sense of optimism, a true offering of hope. When are world is very small, our solutions to problems are sure to be. Miguel and his family are gifted more tools with which to work, more venues for expression, and a more vibrant place to inhabit. Julia Alvarez and her character Tía Lola do not just bring charm and sweet humor to the communities where they would visit stay, but possibility as well.

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note: I read these Stories out of order (as the Library obtained them). You can, too, but they are most successful, I believe, in order. Still, Alvarez does not limit herself to formula in this series, each have their own creative aspects that hold them apart from the others. Read them all, read them with your grade-schooler, and don’t just revel in the cultural education aspects, but talk about the familial and social issues, too. Alvarez writes entertaining and informative and socially conscious really well. Enjoy.

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L’s reviews for (Book 2) How Tía Lola Learned to Teach and (Book 4) How Tía Lola Ended Up Starting Over.

"review" · concenter · fiction · juvenile lit · recommend · series

tia lola stories : the 4th

How Tia Lola Ended Up Starting Over

(Tia Lola Stories : Book 4)

by Julia Alvarez

Alfred A. Knopf, 2011

Hardcover, 147 pages, Juvenile Fiction (ages 7-10)

Welcome to Tia Lola’s bed and breakfast! With the help of her niece and nephew and the three Sword Sisters, Tía Lola is opening the doors of Colonel Charlebois’ grand old Vermont house to visitors from all over. But Tía Lola and the children soon realize that running a B & B isn’t as easy they had initially thought–especially when it appears that someone is out to sabotage them! Will Tía Lola and the kids discover who’s behind the plot to make their B & B fail? And will Tía Lola’s family and friends be able to plan her a surprise birthday party in her own B & B without her finding out? ~Publisher Comments

This fourth and final installment of Julia Alvarez’s Tia Lola Stories ends on a high note: with a new beginning and another invitation. Tia Lola shouldn’t be easily discarded, and these stories are most certainly here to stay.

Tia Lola is all about helping those around her, whether they are family or community. The Espadas could use help as (the father) Victor deals with some (not uncommon) life-changing decisions. It is lovely when the solution for a source of Income can benefit more than the Espadas, but Colonel Charlebois, Tia Lola, and truly the community at large as well.

Of course not, everyone is pleased with this foreigner coming in and shaking things up—even if the change is needed—even if said hateful person brought trouble upon herself. We learn hard places can have good outcomes and bad ones, depending on the choices one makes, and depending on the support they have from family and community. Tia Lola responds to threat with caution and compassion, a good choice with a good outcome. Julia Alvarez proves deft yet again, in tackling the difficulties life can bring with courage and creative thinking—and the blessing of a greater world view.

In an increasingly familiar landscape of broken and re-stitched families Tia Lola continually brings her cultural upbringing with her, and not just to Vermont. In Ended Up Starting Over she shares her idea of family as Miguel’s and Juanita’s family is on the verge of growing exponentially.

“In this country, children have only nuclear families: mama, papa. That’s it!” She holds out two empty palms. “So few to love and be loved by. Back home, we have huge familias, with mama, papa, abuelitos, grandparents, tios, tias, uncles and aunts, primos, primas, cousins and more cousins, and many amigos. Now you , too, will have a big familia in this country.” (112)

Tia Lola maintains the children’s best interests in a world of adults and scary situations. She helps them problem solve, validates their feelings, and encourages their talents, as well as their innately compassionate natures. Combining families can be a good thing (it is in this case), but it is tricky. Change can be scary, and what might get lost along the way? The children should have a voice, and Tia Lola helps them find it. She is empowering and, I think, inspiring for the young Reader.

Julia Alvarez is a wonderful storyteller. The 3rd-person is not wholly limited but moves between characters at whim (and benefit), but each chapter does take on a singular primary character’s point-of-view. The shift of point-of-view allows for greater development amongst all the characters the stories have acquired. And each player has concerns that contribute to a more complex story. The shifting of narrative is also fun. Alvarez has written some great characters and a few favorites are bound to connect with the Reader–whether boy or girl.

The mystery helps balance the familial dramas, even as it facilitates some of them. Alvarez has a gift for not insulting her audience while yet keeping a light-heart. For all the tension and seriousness of situation, Tia Lola (who is oft vulnerable herself) is source of hopefulness, a wise figure, and determined. Her solutions are creative, and rarely obvious. Alvarez is consistent in these stories. There is whimsy and humor and a lot of heart in Tia Lola and this Tia Lola novel.

It is fun part of this last Tia Lola Story how the students must finally outwit the teacher. And with the celebration of the marvelous Tia Lola, Julia Alvarez finesses an ending in a beginning, and in a return to the beginning book How Tia Lola Comes to Visit Stay. Alvarez resolves more than a few of the mysteries experienced since the beginning: Just how old is Tia Lola? and How might Tia Lola actually come to stay? etc.  Such will please the Readers of previous books, and while I think the How Tia Lola Ended Up Starting Over has enough to please a new-to-Tia-Lola Reader, especially the Young Reader, it would be best to begin earlier.

Natalya swears by Return to Sender (Knopf, 2009). I, too, look forward to reading more from this versatile, yet consistently brilliant author, Julia Alvarez. Indeed, she has something for every age; she’s a writer of fiction and non-; a poet and essayist. Check her out.

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My review of How Tia Lola Came to Teach (Tia Lola Stories: Book 2).

"review" · Children's · fiction · juvenile lit · Picture book · recommend · Tales

the secret footprints

The Secret  Footprints by Julia Alvarez

Illustrated by Fabian Negrin

Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.

That it was Alvarez caught my eye when the daughter and I were browsing the 398s. I had never heard of ciguapas, and now I am just flat out captivated by the idea of their existence.

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As a little girl growing up in the Dominican Republic, I remember hearing stories of the ciguapas. (See-goo-ah-pas.) This tribe of beautiful women live underwater but come out at night to hunt for food. No one has ever been able to track them down because they have a special secret. I’d lie in bed, struggling to stay awake, hoping to spot one. I never did, until I wrote this story about one little-girl ciguapa, Guapita, who almost gives away the special secret by befriending a human boy. The illustrations by the Italian artist, Fabian Negrin, are fabulous. ~Julia Alvarez, here.

In Julia Alvarez’s tale, The Secret Footprints, a fearless young ciguapa, Guapa, has a curious nature that nearly costs her tribe their freedom. “If people find out where we live, they will capture us because we are so beautiful. Doctors will want to put us in cages and study us. We will be forced to live on land” (8). But are all humans so terrible? Her boldness gets her into trouble, but the human boy she’s found interest in proves kind.

I am just going to go ahead and share their secret, because I thought this to be a interesting invention (and it won’t ruin the story). “Their feet were on backward! When they walked on land, they left footprints going in the opposite direction” (3).  No prints are seen rising up out of the sea. An added enchantment is how Julia Alvarez imagines some of the difficulties of having backward feet on land. This is a story that truly captures the imagination.

Those familiar with Ondine, The Little Mermaid, and/or Selkies will be intrigued by the ciguapas, fairytale figures originating in the Dominican Republic.Alvarez adds a letter at the end of the book, “About the Story,” where she talks about growing up with the tale and shares some of the different versions she’s encountered. I love that she includes people’s ideas about where the ciguapas stories come from, but I am even more charmed by the influences ciguapas have had on the author’s life, how they’ve still managed to make it to Vermont, backward feet and all.

“Sometimes I leave my wash out on the line overnight and stick a piece of candy or an apple in the pocket of my pants or jacket, just in case. I know it’s a long way from the Dominican Republic to Vermont, especially if your feet are on backward. But I have to tell you, sometimes that piece of candy or apple is gone from that pocket in the morning. My husband says it could be squirrels or maybe even a raccoon.

I know better.”

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to view more of Fabian Negrin’s work. Julia Alvarez’s site.

my review of Tia Lola Learns to Teach.

read for the Once Upon a Time Challenge (V) as well.

"review" · book list · concenter · fiction · juvenile lit · recommend · series

Learning Tía Lola

How Tia Lola Learned to Teach: (Tia Lola Stories, Book 2.)

by Julia Alvarez

Alfred A. Knopf, 2010.

134 pages (hardcover)

Tía Lola has been invited to teach Spanish at her niece and nephew’s elementary school. But Miguel wants nothing to do with the arrangement. He hasn’t had an easy time adjusting to his new school in Vermont and doesn’t like living so far away from Papi, who has a new girlfriend and an announcement to make. On the other hand, Miguel’s little sister, Juanita, can’t wait to introduce her colorfully dressed aunt with her migrating beauty mark to all her friends at school—that is, if she can stop getting distracted long enough to remember to do so. Before long, Tía Lola is organizing a Spanish treasure hunt and a Carnaval fiesta at school. Will Miguel be willing to join the fun? Will Juanita get her head out of the clouds and lead her classmates to victory in the treasure hunt?

Told with abundant humor and heart, Julia Alvarez’s new Tía Lola story is the long-awaited sequel to the beloved How Tía Lola Came to Visit Stay. ~publisher’s comments

Julia Alvarez’s How Tía Lola Learned to Teach is absolutely charming. This is a second middle-grade novel by Alvarez featuring Tía Lola. You can bet I am Requesting the first now, How Tía Lola Came to Visit Stay (Knopf, 2002).

The Tía Lola character reminds me of Mary Poppins, though older and warmer. Tía Lola has a magical quality about her, bringing student’s imaginations to life, transforming a classroom into a jungle (16-7) and her nephew into “a big, dumb orangutan” (18).

You didn’t work some magic in there, did you?: Miguel asks his aunt bluntly.

Tía Lola laughs and shakes her head. “No hice nada.” She didn’t do a thing. The children just used their imaginations. (18)

There is something magical about Tía Lola, something marvelous. You learn very quickly that she has a positive pleasing affect on the people around her, firmly rooted into the community of which she is so new.  Her foreignness (the brightly colored/patterned clothes, mannerisms, language) is not embarrassing or off-putting; she actually draws people closer to herself and each other. Tía Lola looks at the world with wonderment and experience, with a ready smile or tear. “Juanita gazes up lovingly at her aunt. The wonderful thing about Tía Lola is that she thinks like a kid, but being a grown-up, she can actually make wishes come true” (61). Tía Lola wouldn’t keep that quality to herself, but empowers not only the imaginations, but the capabilities of carrying out their dreams in the ones around her—and hopefully the Reader.

One of Tía Lola’s desires is to share her culture with the people around her. And in this novel she finds an eager audience; in the community of characters and in the readership of the novel. The author Julia Alvarez has the same desire, having also grown up in the Dominican Republic, she would share the culture. Bilingual, she would share the advantages, “Being bilingual is a wonderful way to connect ourselves with other people from other countries and understand what it means to live inside their words as well as their world” (133).

There is the learning of Spanish. Alvarez notes in “about tía lola’s spanish,” “whenever I use a Spanish word, I always give you its English translation or make sure you understand what the word means in that scene. I wouldn’t want you to feel left out just because you are not yet bilingual!” (133).

There is the subtle reminder that the Dominican Republic is not Mexico and vice versa. While there are things in common, like Carnaval, there are differences.

For all the differences between places of birth and physical appearances and language, title reminds that we are “all a part of the human family” (64). Title is constructed of Lessons that function singularly to illustrate the Lesson with a Wise Saying while maintaining an overarching time- and story-line. In “Lesson 6: En todas partes cuecen habas/Everywhere, people cook beans,” Alvarez illustrates (shows) the meaning of the phrase; and Tía Lola explains it (to Juanita): “There are certain things that people everywhere in the world do, like cook beans or have babies or dream dreams or fall in love” (64). Throughout the Lesson, Tía Lola and Juanita are comparing similar phrases between languages, and the action has Juanita comparing herself to the Mexican girl in her classroom Ofelia, drawing connections which leads toward compassionate action.

The decision to form the novel into “Lessons” is a wonderful idea; fitting on several levels. Tía Lola had never progressed past the 4th grade and is concerned about her ability to teach Spanish to the children at school as requested (5). While she does work to create a lesson plan, studying and researching, in the end it is Tía Lola as herself that is most influential. And there is also her own willingness to learn and participate that is rewarded (as opposed to Ofelia’s parents?).

Tía Lola isn’t the only character around which the Reader might gravitate. Miguel (almost 11) and Juanita (7) make this middle-grade available to boy or girl audiences. Each have their personality traits that are absolutely relatable. Lessons learned aren’t overly sappy and often involve humor. despite plenty of serious tones in the read, Alvarez maintains a light hand and gentle, compassionate response in which young readers can find both comfort and hope.

How Tía Lola Learned to Teach is humorous and endearing, creating characters that are well-described, creating a community with quirks. The community is somewhat idyllic, though not impossible. The optimism in the book results in more positive outcomes than negative. And there are a few negative outcomes, not ignored, but with a determination to celebrate hopefulness, the novel works to redirect the gaze (of Reader and character).

The Tía Lola stories are set in less than pleasant circumstances. Mami and Papi have divorced, and in following a job Mami has moved her and her children away from Papi and family and friends to a rural town Vermont. I am assuming the first book How Tía Lola Came to Visit Stay, deals with this transition. How Tía Lola Learned to Teach is a year later and the effects are still felt, if not compounded by Papi’s latest announcement. How do the children feel about this, how do they respond? How does Mami handle it? Tía Lola shines in her role to hold them all together. Circumstances may be ugly, but humans needn’t be. Life is not easy or ideal, but with a well-aimed phrase perspective is valuable; as is family and community.

How Tía Lola Learned to Teach creates a longing for multi-generational homes and stronger communities. If a Reader already has these pleasures, the read is life-affirming.

A great project after the read? (which would be great to have this read aloud with parents, grandparents, and/or in classrooms.)  Create a piñata and fill it like the one at the picnic. Exchange Sayings to compare/contrast. To follow Alvarez’s urgings, “Maybe you can find a Tía Lola in your neighborhood who can come to your school and teach everyone how to speak Spanish in español” (133). And learn about Immigration Policies and about the lives and struggles of immigrants in your own community, and in your own past.

I have gone on about the educational aspects of How Tía Lola Learned to Teach. That the novel is one to learn from and would impart meaning is something a middle-grader would pick up on in the reading. For those (like me) who dislike books with overt Messages How Tía Lola Learned to Teach doesn’t come across in that way; there is no edge of criticism for the ignorant or forsaking of plot development. Julia Alvarez maintains a nice balance that keeps this Tía Lola Story a story. It is thoughtful and entertaining, dramatic and light. This is one for every middle-grader to share with the adults in their lives.

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How Tía Lola Learned to Teach is recommended ages 8-12, agree with a young 12. The writing style, the 3rd person voice, is highly accessible and enjoyable. The bilingual aspect is beautifully done, not too difficult at all, respects the intelligence of its audience to pick it up.

I am looking forward to the first Tía Lola, and have made a list of other Julia Alvarez novels to check out. Speaking of lists, How Tía Lola Learned to Teach is a “concenter list” read, a list I hope to put a huge dent in in the coming year.

Julia Alvarez's website.