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Reviews of the 2016 Belpré Author Award winners

Winner:

engle_enchanted airEnchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir
by Margarita Engle
Middle School   Atheneum   195 pp.
8/15   978-1-4814-3522-2   $17.99   g
e-book ed. 978-1-4814-3524-6   $10.99

Well known for her portrayals of historic Cubans in verse novels such as The Surrender Tree (rev. 7/08) and The Poet Slave of Cuba (rev. 7/06), Engle explores her own past in this collection of emotionally rich memory poems. The daughter of a Don Quixote–obsessed American artist of Ukrainian Jewish descent and a beautiful homesick Cuban émigrée, Engle begins with joyful visits to her mother’s homeland as a child. Roaming the countryside, she falls in love with “the lush beauty of a land so wild / and green that the rippling river / on my great-uncle’s farm / shimmers like a hummingbird.” Engle effectively contrasts the smoggy air of sprawling Los Angeles with the enchanted air of that small, magical-seeming island, and at first going between the two cultures is fairly seamless: “In one country, I hear the sweet words / of another. / Dulce de leche means sweet of milk. / Guarapo is sugarcane juice.” But then there’s the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and suddenly all is different. Moving through elementary and middle school, the wistful young Margarita struggles to find her American self in a country that views her mother’s homeland as the enemy. Ending with a note of optimism — “All I know about the future / is that it will be beautiful” — Engle’s personal reverie gives young readers an intimate view of a complicated time and life. A timeline is appended. MONICA EDINGER

From the July/August 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

 

Honor Books:

bowles_smoking mirrorThe Smoking Mirror [Garza Twins]
by David Bowles
Intermediate     IFWG     226 pp.
3/15     978-1-925148-64-0     $12.99

Review to come.

 

 

 

 

medina_mango, abuela, and meMango, Abuela, and Me
by Meg Medina; 
illus. by Angela Dominguez
Primary   Candlewick   32 pp.
8/15   978-0-7636-6900-3   $15.99

When her “far-away grandmother” arrives, Mia worries. Her grandmother doesn’t speak English, and Mia’s “español is not good enough to tell her the things an abuela should know.” Mia can’t talk about herself or about what happens at school; her abuela can’t share with Mia stories of her grandfather and their house nestled between two rivers. What Mia knows of her grandmother comes from the items she unpacks from her suitcase, among them the red feather of a parrot that lived in her mango trees. Mia engages her grandmother in games of Hear and Say, Oye y Di, and they begin to understand each other. But it isn’t until Mia spies a parrot in a pet-store window and persuades her mother to buy it, naming it Mango for its brightly colored feathers, that Mia and her abuela truly connect. With Mango, they learn each other’s languages until their “mouths are full of things to say.” Medina (Tía Isa Wants a Car, rev. 7/11) tells a heartwarming story about intergenerational relationships, finding common ground, and adapting to change. Dominguez’s (Maria Had a Little Llama, rev. 11/13) digitally adjusted ink, gouache, and marker illustrations capture the various emotions and moods of the characters, from shyness to frustration to happiness. The subtle tones of the wintry city, complemented by splashes of bright tropical colors throughout, convey the feeling of clashing worlds. Young readers will enjoy seeing the relationship between Mia and her grandmother develop — with the help of Mango. CELIA C. PÉREZ

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

For more, click on the tag ALA Midwinter 2016.

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