The Little Blue House

In a very small town in rural Argentina there is a magical house. The house is vacant and has been for as long as anyone can remember, but once a year, at midnight, the house turns blue, and 24 hours later it turns back to white again. Twelve-year-old Cintia lives with her father, an angry man who is sometimes violent. But Cintia finds comfort at her grandmother’s home, where there is always delicious food and fascinating tales about the town and about Cintia’s own family. Cintia is drawn to the little blue house even though both her father and grandmother forbid her to go there. And the town’s mayor, who hopes to turn the house into a money-making tourist attraction, tries to prevent anyone from visiting the place without paying. As the time approaches for the annual transformation of the house, more mysteries crop up. Cintia and her grandmother must make peace with Cintia’s father. The mayor’s plans must be confronted, and an old bookseller needs to find a way to save what is most important. And what about the rumors of buried treasure?

Bitter Dumplings

A tasty, original storyThis striking picture book ends with a new beginning for three people who never expected to be friends – an orphaned girl cast out by her siblings, a slave escaping from a mighty emperor’s ship, and a hunchbacked old woman known for the bitter-melon and shrimp dumplings she brings to market each day – and for living in a haunted house at the edge of the marshes. As their hardship-filled paths cross, each of their lives begins to change for the better, in a moving affirmation of the power of compassion.Set long ago in a Chinese village by the sea, Jeanne M. Lee’s meticulously illustrated story has an extraordinary flavor all its own.

To Go Singing Through the World: The Childhood of Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda grew up in the rough and wild frontier town of Temuco, Chile. His father was a railroad man and not inclined to draw out the introspective boy. However, his stepmother, descended from the Mapuche people, was gentle and nurturing and told him stories of Chile’s native people. But in her husband’s presence, she was as silent as Pablo. So the child found refuge in nature and in books. And secretly he wrote down his thoughts. With the encouragement of Gabriela Mistral, an award-winning poet, teacher, and friend, Neruda’s writing grew resonant and powerful. At age sixteen he left Temuco for the university in Santiago and went on to become the “people’s poet” and to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.  Blending her telling of Neruda’s childhood with excerpts from his own poetry and prose, Ms. Ray captures the people and places that inspired him in her rich watercolor illustrations.

The Composition

In a village in Chile, Pedro and Daniel are two typical nine-year-old boys. Up until Daniel’s father gets arrested, their biggest worry had been how to improve their soccer skills. Now, they are thrust into a situation where they must grapple with the incomprehensible: dictatorship and its inherent abuses. This sensitively realized story touches a nerve and brings home the uncomfortable fact that some children do encounter issues of this magnitude. Here, deft realism is brought to the page by Antonia Skarmeta’s story and the edgy drawings of Alfonso Ruano, portraying a child’s view of a repressive society. The Composition is a winner of the Americas Award for Children’s Literature and the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award.

The Black Book of Colors

Living with the use of one’s eyes can make imagining blindness difficult, but this innovative title invites readers to imagine living without sight through remarkable illustrations done with raised lines and descriptions of colors based on imagery. Braille letters accompany the illustrations and a full Braille alphabet offers sighted readers help reading along with their fingers. This extraordinary title gives young readers the ability to experience the world in a new way.

See the review at WOW Review, Volume 3, Issue 1