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The Story of Diva and Flea.
Willems, Mo (author).
Illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi.
Oct. 2015. 80p. Disney/Hyperion, hardcover, $14.99 (9781484722848). Grades 1-3.
First published September 1, 2015 (Booklist).
Diva is a tiny white dog who lives in a grand, old apartment building in Paris, France. As the pet of the building’s gardienne, she patrols the courtyard, making sure that all is well. Flea, on the other hand, is a large cat who roams Paris’ streets. He is a great flâneur—“someone (or somecat) who . . . has seen everything, but still looks for more, because there is always something more to discover.” One day Flea’s flâneur-ing takes him past Diva’s courtyard, and the two strike up a friendship. Diva, who is skittish and has never traveled, loves hearing of Flea’s adventures, particularly the one about the “tower so tall and so pointy that it could cut a cloud in half.” Eventually, Flea suggests that Diva go wandering with him, and after some gentle encouragement, Diva takes her first brave steps beyond the courtyard. In return, Diva takes Flea inside her apartment, introducing him to a friendly broom that won’t swat cats and the miraculous occurrence known as breakfast. Willems has written a story with winning characters and bursting with tender charm, which is further amplified by DiTerlizzi’s expressive, vintage-style illustrations. Humor and sincerity walk paw in paw through this simple chapter book, inspiring exploration, bravery, and making friends. Be warned: excessive smiling may occur while reading.
HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Willems and DiTerlizzi are a children’s book dream team. Stock up!
School Library Journal
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Along with the levees of New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina breaks
open two families of women, revealing—and creating—unexpected ties of the
Author of the memoir When I Was Elena (2006),
Urbani sets her debut novel in the days during and after one of America’s most
devastating storms. Tracing the experiences of two smart, tough young women,
Rose and Rosy, she lays down threads that knot their histories together. Each
young woman is fatherless, each living with a difficult mother who clings to a
romantic past while trying to prepare her daughter for the challenges of a
female adulthood. Thrown into the maelstrom of Katrina and its aftermath, each
sees her life change completely overnight, forcing her to face herself and the
past that shaped her. Urbani boldly sets her story among some of the most
disturbing events of that time, sensitively evoking the desperation of the
survivors of the hurricane and its mishandled aftershocks. To her great credit,
she never shies away from the realities of poverty, race, and racism, nor does
she fail to give people, both white and black, individual characters, unique
histories, and often warm hearts. This, along with Urbani’s loving yet critical
portrait of the American South, is one of the book’s strengths. There are also
some fine descriptions, especially of the experience of the flood—“The howling
of the dogs had stopped by the second day.” But the plot develops too slowly,
and there are exaggerations that undermine the story, such as a young woman
eating six pieces of pie at once or people who do things for hours when much
less would have been more believable. The author too often explains herself
when the information the reader needs is already in the story.
Though the novel is occasionally unconvincing, its compassionate
heart and clear eyes will surely touch some readers.
A Village in the Fields
In Enrado’s debut novel, a retired Filipino
farmworker looks back on his long and costly struggle for civil rights.
As the story begins, Fausto Empleo is the last
remaining Filipino elder in his retirement village for farmworkers. A visit
from his estranged cousin prompts Fausto to review his life. Born in 1912, he came
to the United States in 1929, following his older cousins, all bent on pursuing
some version of the American dream. Ready for hard work, Fausto was unprepared
for the racism he encountered: being called “brown monkey,” signs that read “Positively
no Filipinos allowed,” etc. With his cousins, Fausto followed the harvest up
and down California to cut, pick, and process crops. The labor was hard, wages
low, conditions primitive. Eventually, the expatriates helped build a Filipino
community in central California, starting families and buying property. In
1965, wanting a better life for his children to come, Fausto joined the Delano
grape strike, but the strike’s hardships cost him his house, car, and, worst of
all, his beloved and pregnant wife, Marina, who returned in disappointment to
the Philippines, leaving Fausto feeling empty. At the end of his life, Fausto
learns some answers to long-held questions and gains a measure of peace.
Enrado’s characterization is beautifully observed; she conveys the tactile,
sensory quality of farmwork, the way a much-used tool fits a man’s hand, and
how dirt seeps in to every wrinkle of clothes and body. Fausto’s culture,
friendships, and inner life see rich expression. For a novel dealing with
social justice issues, it can be difficult to avoid the soapbox, but Enrado is
nuanced. She notes, for example, that before the war, the land Fausto’s
enterprising cousin Macario buys “belonged to a Japanese farmer, who’d been
relocated to an internment camp”—proof that one minority’s opportunity can come
at the expense of another. The novel’s tone of reconciliation is well-earned:
as Fausto says, “nothing worth fighting for is easy.”
Multilayered, empathetic, and touching account
of a workingman’s life.
A Canadian Mountie seconded to the United Nations in Haiti steps
uncomfortably outside his job description.
Sgt. Ray Robertson is an adviser and mentor working with the
national police force to help Haiti recover from its recent devastating
earthquake. While he’s attached to Agent Pierre Lamothe and his team, they’re
called to a gated mansion in one of the best neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince,
where a woman has been found dead in the swimming pool. Steve Hammond is an
American married to a beautiful woman with two young children. The official
story is that his wife, Marie, slipped and hit her head on the pool before
falling in. From the first, however, Robertson doesn’t buy that scenario. A
woman from the American embassy arranges for the body to be autopsied in Miami
and, while she’s at it, does her best to shut down the investigation. Robertson
is locked out of the case when the gardener is arrested for killing Marie. Even
though Robertson is no detective, his curiosity is aroused, and he grows more
suspicious when one of the guards from the Hammond home is seen wearing an
expensive watch. Despite threats from the embassy and a cold shoulder from the
local police, he persists in his inquiries and comes up with some disturbing
Cold Stone, 2014, etc.) uses a slim and easily solved mystery to
paint a thought-provoking portrait of post-quake Haiti.