A Sunburned Prayer

Marc Talbert, Author
Marc Talbert, Author Simon & Schuster $14 (108p) ISBN 978-0-689-80125-9
Paperback - 112 pages - 978-0-689-81326-9
Prebound-Other - 978-0-606-11938-2
Prebound-Other - 122 pages - 978-0-613-01669-8
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Few YA authors scrutinize the often painful process of growing up as intently as does Talbert (Dead Birds Singing; Pillow of Clouds). As in most of his other works, the protagonist here is a boy struggling to propel himself toward adulthood through a minefield of uncertainties and turbulent emotions. Defying his parents, Eloy, 11, steals away before dawn on Good Friday to make the 17-mile pilgrimage to the Santuario de Chimayo, hoping that the holy dirt from the churchyard will cure the cancer that is killing his beloved abuelita. From the outset he is shadowed by a stray dog, which he at first attempts to chase away. But by the end of his journey under the blazing New Mexico sun, Eloy comes to welcome the dog's presence just as he begins to accept the impending loss of his grandmother. Paradoxically, Talbert in part achieves his reverent tone by allowing Eloy to voice recognizable doubts: ``Sure. He was going to beg God, the same guy who let his abuela get sick in the first place, the same guy who could have prevented it by lifting His little finger.'' Illuminating a very specific religious rite in universal terms, the author illustrates how miracles can be manifested in subtle yet deeply profound ways. A glossary of key Spanish words and phrases provides helpful background information. Ages 10-14. (Apr.)
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