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Any Small Goodness: A Novel Of The Barrio Hardcover – September 1, 2001
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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.
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
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