cover image Dancing Home

Dancing Home

Alma Flor Ada and Gabriel M. Zubizarreta. S&S/Atheneum, $14.99 (160p) ISBN 978-1-4169-0088-7

Working with a potentially rich multicultural family story, Ada (Under the Royal Palms) and first-time author Zubizarreta instead deliver a timely but lifeless novel about a Mexican-American girl in California and her newly arrived Mexican cousin. The 11-year-olds%E2%80%94Margarita, who insists on being called Margie and regularly refers to her Texas birth, and Lupe, who barely speaks English%E2%80%94come across as little more than mouthpieces for the authors' message. While the opening chapter, in which Margarita unhappily brings Lupe to her own classroom, is promising, the authors rely too much on descriptions and summaries, forgoing opportunities to "show, don't tell." Margarita's dismay over losing her hard-won Americanism is realistically age-appropriate, but Lupe seems overly mature. Facing her long-lost father, she thinks: "The same painful longings that had nourished all of her fantasies were now fueling her anger against this man who seemed to enter into and disappear from her life so easily." Margarita's eventual appreciation of her heritage and Lupe's adjustment to her new country are predictable and too easily come by to have true emotional resonance. A Spanish-language edition, Nacer Bailando, is available simultaneously. Ages 8%E2%80%9312. (July)