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Gr. 6-9. Dreaming of a better education, Puerto Rican teenager Maria reluctantly leaves Mami and moves to a mainland barrio with her father. A talented writer, Maria expresses her dismay in her gritty urban surroundings through poetry, wistfully noting the disappearance of words such as "green, blue, sun, mountains, music, friends" from her vocabulary. Eventually, though, sorrow is tempered by exciting new friendships; compassionate, inspiring teachers; and, most of all, the development of a poetry style all her own, mixing her newly confident English and her father's festive Spanglish. Maria's self-conscious attempts to forge a fluid, nonpartisan identity ("Am I an Island woman or a barrio woman? Can't I be both?") seems overdone, but her resilience as her parents' marriage deteriorates feels poignant and true. Ortiz Cofer, the author of the award-winning An Island Like You 0 (1995) , 0 charts Maria's literary coming-of-age through poems, letters, and other narrative fragments, making this both structurally and thematically reminiscent of Sandra Cisneros' watershed The House on Mango Street 0 (1984). --Jennifer Mattson Copyright 2004 Booklist
School Library Journal
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Gr 5-8-Through a mixture of poems, letters, and prose, Mar'a gradually reveals herself as a true student of language and life. Her family has decided that she and her father will leave her mother in Puerto Rico and make a home for themselves in a New York City barrio. The vibrancy of her life is reflected in her growing friendships with Whoopee and Uma, two girls in her building, where her father is el Super. Eventually, she becomes trilingual, speaking English, Spanish, and "Spanglish," and through her words, Mar'a creates a rich portrait of a neighborhood that nurtures its own. A slight plot is woven in regarding the conflict over island versus city life, and which girl the handsome papi-lindo on the fifth floor will choose to flirt with. In both cases, there is beauty to experience on the surface, but one must look deeper to find true value. Understated but with a brilliant combination of all the right words to convey events, Cofer aptly relates the complexities of Mar'a's two homes, her parents' lives, and the difficulty of her choice between them. Particularly good for immigrants and second-generation readers, this is a quietly appealing portrayal of a Latina hija that many libraries will find valuable.-Carol A. Edwards, Douglas County Libraries, Castle Rock, CO (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.