Talbert's (Heart of a Jaguar) vivid descriptions overshadow the occasional holes in this novel, making for a creative and compelling adventure story. Tom is on vacation with his family in a Mexican beach resort and hating every moment of it; he thinks it's dirty and boring. But when Tom and his younger sister, Philippa, venture alone to the marketplace, gunfire erupts between soldiers and revolutionaries. Tom and Philippa are rescued by a local boy, Ignacio, and his father. Brought to the countryside, Tom begins to realize both the beauty and the brutality of Ignacio's rural life--and to appreciate the luxuries he always took for granted back home in Minnesota. Tom's days on the farm are relayed in wonderful detail, from the scene in which he watches Ignacio's mother make tortillas to a moment when he tries to comfort a proud steer about to be slaughtered. The storytelling isn't always this rich, though. Tom's reaction to the violence he witnesses in the market, including a bloody murder, doesn't feel severe enough. A later scene, in which Ignacio's uncle kidnaps the boys, hoping to collect ransom money from Tom's parents, also rings false. Their easy escape seems impossible, as does Ignacio's father's laid-back reaction when they return to the farm badly beaten. Overall, though, readers will be absorbed by Tom's radical plunge into Mexican life and by his transformation into a compassionate person. Ages 11-14. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/28/2000 Release date: 03/01/2000 Genre: Children's
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