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Any Small Goodness: A Novel of the Barrio Paperback – June 1, 2003


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 7 - 10 years
  • Grade Level: 2 - 5
  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks (June 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0439233844
  • ISBN-13: 978-0439233842
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 5.2 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #133,436 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 4-7-This novel set in East Los Angeles provides a glimpse of the daily life of an extended Mexican-American family rich in relationships, if not in material possessions. Rather than a linear plot, the vignettes introduce readers to 11-year-old Arturo's family, school life, neighborhood occurrences, and holiday celebrations. Spanish words and phrases are sprinkled throughout as are descriptions of mouth-watering dishes constantly prepared by the boy's Mami and Abuelita. The characters are likable and warm, even if the voice of Arturo seems to be a bit too adult for his years. The message is positive and the episodes, while occasionally serious, are more often humorous and gratifying.

Sharon McNeil, Los Angeles County Office of Education

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Gr. 4-7, younger for reading aloud. In her first novel, popular picture-book author Johnston tells a warm, upbeat story of a Mexican family newly arrived in Los Angeles. The narrator is Arturo Rodriguez, 11, whose present-tense account is filled with Spanish expressions and the physical details of daily life at home, at school, and in the barrio. The first chapter will touch many immigrant kids: the children are tempted to assimilate after their teacher anglicizes their names, but Arturo's abuelita persuades them to hold on to who they are and take their names back. At times Johnston overdoes the local color with too many similes, and some characters are sentimentalized (not that anyone will object to the "angel" librarian). There's a scary gang and a drive-by shooting, but order is restored and the climax is the family celebration of navidad, "warm and sweet and silly, glowing in the candlelight." The small size of the book is inviting, with clear, spacious type and a small illustration at the head of each chapter. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Library Gaga on November 23, 2005
Format: Paperback
The reviews on the inside cover of this book describe Arturo, the protagonist, as `a Latino Holden Caulfield'. Well, no.

After reading a few Hispanic American novels, I am beginning to see some similarities. They have all been family based, family oriented. They each include a glossary to help readers with the Spanish words and phrases sprinkled throughout the text. They are life affirming and tell an uplifting tale.

Any Small Goodness runs along the same lines. The title comes from what Arturo's father tells him: "In life there is bueno and there is malo. If you do not find enough of the good, you must yourself create it ... Remember this thing - any small goodness is of value."

To this end, Arturo and his friends form the Green Needle gang. In the Los Angeles barrio that is their home, they must deal with real street gangs. But the Green Needle gang sneaks up to people's houses and leave Christmas trees and gifts on the porch. This is only one of the ways they concoct to make their lives and neighborhood better.

Arturo and his friends resist their teacher's efforts to Americanize their names (Arturo, Jaime, Alicia, Raul become Arthur, James, Alice, and Ralph, but only briefly). They are proud of their Hispanic heritage and look to Arturo's grandmother as a touchstone to the traditional ways. She cooks Mexican food, uses old time utensils, and speaks Spanish. Arturo is both proud of his grandmother and embarrassed by her - in the fashion of all teens. But they are Americans, after all, and participate in all that is American.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Marguerite R. Elia on December 19, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One of the best books for children and adults that I have read in years. A beautiful portrayal of a Mexican American family and a positive view of the people living in the barrio. The stories are simple but moving and socially-uplifting. A must-read for students 5th grade to 12th grade because of the positive and inspiring content. There is a "need" for this story to be read both in the schools and at home because being tough is not nearly as important or life-sustaing as the human need to experience goodness and kindness, no matter how small. After a day of encountering rudeness from almost every corner, I read this story in one sitting. The examples of what "goodness" is possible if we celebrate and teach the need to consider others, outside of the obvious, was healing to me.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Materexlibris on May 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
A liberal sprinkling of Spanish with a full measure of cultural similes makes this dish a spicy/sweet offering on the menu of "must reads". Eleven year old Arturo grows up in the L.A. barrio in a loving, supportive, extended family. He learns to develop a sense of "self" and respect for his people, his culture, and his neighborhood, while resisting the influence of "cholos" (lowlifes). Arturo and his friends find a creative, covert method to counteract damage inflicted by poverty and gangs. This is a funny, touching glimpse into Hispanic culture in L.A.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 5, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Arturo (nicknamed "Turo") is a young Latino living in Los Angeles with his family. Having moved to the U.S. from Mexico not very long ago, Arturo is still trying to get used to American culture and society. It is not easy to understand and adapt to the unfamiliar culture in the new society. Life in the barrio is tough for many people, but Arturo tries to see and search for the positives in his life, his family, good food, and good friends. Almost every day, Arturo sees how dangerous life is in the barrio. His relatives try to remind him that there is both "bueno and malo" (good and bad) in the world and that "any small goodness is of value."
Turo sees "small goodness" on occasion, including the time a neighbor found their missing cat Huitlacoche (Corn Fungus in English) and returned her to the family. At other times, Turo sees difficult situations -- such as a demonstration against the school board, and outsiders threatening to disrupt a school dance.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Naima S. Dean on December 3, 2004
Format: Paperback
Arturo's family has emigrated from Mexico to East L.A. The teacher at his new school wants to change the kid's names to their American counterparts. Arturo's story reveals the need to adjust and assimilate to a new, sub-culture while retaining the need to maintain integral parts of his own culture. For many, family love and values aren't enough to keep you from the outside influences that can lead you down the wrong road. How do Arturo and his amigos maintain orgullo? This is a great book to open the doors to understanding the unfamiliar characteristics that lie within Mexican culture for school children that are subject to this integration. At the same time the book will offer a sense of pride within their Mexican culture.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Materexlibris on May 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
A liberal sprinkling of Spanish with a full measure of cultural similes makes this dish a spicy/sweet offering on the menu of "must reads". Eleven year old Arturo grows up in the L.A. barrio in a loving, supportive, extended family. He learns to develop a sense of "self" and respect for his people, his culture, and his neighborhood, while resisting the influence of "cholos" (lowlifes). Arturo and his friends find a creative, covert method to counteract damage inflicted by poverty and gangs. This is a funny, touching glimpse into Hispanic culture in L.A.
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