cover image Hola, California!

Hola, California!

Bernie Fuchs, Michael Rose Ramirez. HarperTrophy, $3.99 (96pp) ISBN 978-0-380-79017-3

Ten-year-old Chana Millan of Puerto Rican heritage is the title character in this sluggishly paced tale, the first in the new Chana! series. After her family moves out of their New York barrio to California, Chana rises to the task of making new friends and dealing with the racial prejudices of both a neighbor (who asks Chana if she'd like to clean her house) and school officials (who put the fourth-grader in what the kids call the ""Robin Rejects"" instead of the ""Swallow Smarties"" reading group, even though she's an ace reader). Attempting to introduce the language and traditions of the heroine's native culture, Ramirez liberally laces the narrative with Spanish words and phrases and sometimes pairs them with the English translations. The result often bogs the reader down, as in this comment Chana's mother makes to her: "" Eres muy chistosa! You're a real comic."" Such labored dialogue coupled with bouts of overwriting (e.g., ""bright rays of sunshine were begging to climb in the window"") may make this debut title difficult for middle graders to wade through. Releasing simultaneously is the second Chana! caper, Hoppin' Halloween; a third, Gingerbread Sleepover, is planned for December. Ages 7-10. (Sept.)