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The Color of My Words


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Gr 5-8- Narrator Lisa Vidal superbly captures the voice of a young Dominican girl caught between the fire of her creative dreams and the realities of her role in a politically repressive society in Lynn Joseph's poignant novel (HarperCollins, 2000). Weaving the rhythms of her culture with her own poetic style, 12-year-old Ana Rosa vividly depicts life on her island homeland. She longs to be a writer, but with no money for paper, she writes on brown bags, napkins, and even in her brother's waiter's notebook. Onto these blank pages, she pours out the heartbreak of her first love, the shock of discovering her beloved Papi is not her real father, and her despair over the government's decision to raze their village. Although self-expression is dangerous in this political climate, Ana Rosa' s mother urges her to follow her heart. Soon after, Ana Rosa is chosen to write a protest to the newspaper in an effort to halt the destruction of their village. Her first taste of celebrity is tinged with heartbreak, as it results in the death of her beloved brother, Guario. Vowing never to write again, Ana Rosa sinks into despair until she realizes that she can use her gift to bring her brother to life again on paper. This is the story of his heroism told through the eyes of an adoring younger sister. The sprinkling of Spanish words throughout adds just the right touch to this richly crafted tale of the triumph of spirit in the face of poverty and oppression.-Laurie Edwards, Dauphin County Library System, Harrisburg, PA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

In finely wrought chapters that at times read more like a collection of related short stories than a novel, Joseph (Jump Up Time) presents slices from the life of Ana Rosa just as she is about to turn 13. Through the heroine's poetry and recollections, readers gain a rare intimate view of life in the Dominican Republic. Ana Rosa dreams of becoming a writer even though no one but the president writes books; she learns to dance the merengue by listening to the rhythms of her beloved ocean; and the love of her older brother, Guario, comforts her through many difficulties. The author's portraits of Ana Rosa and her family are studies in spare language; the chapters often grow out of one central imageÄsuch as the gri gri tree where Ana Rosa keeps watch over her village and gets ideas for her writingÄgiving the novel the feel of an extended prose poem. The brevity of the chapters showcases Joseph's gift for metaphoric language (e.g., her description of Ana Rosa's first crush: "My dark eyes trailed him like a line of hot soot wherever he went"). When the easy rhythms of the girl's island life abruptly change due to two major events, the author develops these cataclysms so subtly that readers may not feel the impact as fully as other events, such as the heroine's unrequited love. Still, it's a testimony to the power of Joseph's writing that the developments readers will empathize with most are those of greatest importance to her winning heroine. Ages 8-12. (Aug.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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