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Cinnamon Girl: Letters Found Inside a Cereal Box

Overview

I want to see what is on the other side of the dust

When the towers fall, New York City is blanketed by dust. On the Lower East Side, Yolanda, the Cinnamon Girl, makes her manda, her promise, to gather as much of it as she can. Maybe returning the dust to Ground Zero can comfort all the voices. Maybe it can help Uncle DJ open his eyes again.

As tragedies from her past mix in the air of an unthinkable present, ...

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Overview

I want to see what is on the other side of the dust

When the towers fall, New York City is blanketed by dust. On the Lower East Side, Yolanda, the Cinnamon Girl, makes her manda, her promise, to gather as much of it as she can. Maybe returning the dust to Ground Zero can comfort all the voices. Maybe it can help Uncle DJ open his eyes again.

As tragedies from her past mix in the air of an unthinkable present, Yolanda searches for hope. Maybe it's buried somewhere in the silvery dust of Alphabet City.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Both fiercely imagistic and stylistically uneven, Herrera's (Laughing Out Loud, I Fly) intriguing book opens not long after 9/11 in a hospital where 13-year-old Yolanda's uncle is gravely ill. "All of a sudden, bam! Like the crushed/ tower, my throat gets fiery, then empty/ in the hospital room-uncle DJ!" Some readers may find the text tough going. Puerto Rican phrases heavily spice the narrative (a four-page glossary is included), and the book's complicated structure and gradually revealed plot can be difficult to decipher. Yolanda's first-person narrative unspools through letters exchanged between the girl and her uncle (saved in a cereal box), and through her own piercing verse. This framework allows Herrara to capitalize on Yolanda's raw emotions, but at times makes the narrative awkward (e.g., as when she describes a brutal beating she receives from a peer). Yolanda carries many burdens, including mourning a friend's needless death, feelings of abandonment by another friend, fears for her uncle and wonders how she can fulfill her promise to him to "save the dustvoices" of those who perished in the towers. The calamities seem never-ending as Yolanda leaves the safety of her family and hallucinates on drugs. In a poignant scene, however, she finds her way back through her mother's perspicacious intervention. The book is so unrelentingly bleak that a surprise upbeat twist may strain readers' credibility. Still, the strong imagery and the underlying bond between Yolanda and her uncle make this an impressive effort. Ages 14-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Mary Rand Hess
Told in verse and in letters, this novel starts eight days after the September 11, 2001, tragedy. Yolanda, also known as Cinnamon Girl, is a teenager who must come to grips with the aftermath of New York City's worst. Her uncle DJ is in the hospital because of the Twin Towers tragedy, and it is the letters to and from him that get her through each day. In these letters, which Yolanda saves in a cereal box, we discover she has been through much strife in her young life. She has moved from Iowa to New York to get away from her troubled life and the memories of losing her best friend Sky. In "Alphabet City," her closet friend, Rezzy, joins her in her quest to keep a promise, to save the "dustvoices" of the city. But in the midst of her collecting this silvery promise, Rezzy and her family must move back to Kuwait after their store is destroyed. This leaves Yolanda wondering if she will be left all alone. But there is ultimately hope of a new beginning in the silvery city of dreams. A striking novel, rich with Latino culture, and what it means to come together and survive with the closeness of family. A great read.
School Library Journal
Gr 8-10-Young adult fiction dealing with 9/11 has been slow to be published, so Herrera's book might have helped fill the void. Unfortunately it is a disappointing effort. It is a pastiche of poetry and letters written by 10th-grader Yolanda, whose uncle lies attached to life-support machinery after having been rescued from the rubble of the Twin Towers. Yo, herself, has been rescued from a too-daring adolescence in Iowa, where she was befriended by kids engaged in clubbing, drinking, and a game of chicken that ended in tragedy. Now in New York City, the Puerto Rican teen and her relatives keep a bedside vigil and, in a moment of consciousness, her uncle implores her to "save the others." She does so the only way she can: by gathering dust and ashes from the streets and storing it in plastic bags. As her desperation to complete her quest increases, she stays out all night in the company of a boy who convinces her to smoke pot and then abandons her. Amid all the bleakness and despair, Yo's mother finds her and lets her know that she has been better understood-all along-than she had realized. Even better, her uncle has awakened from his coma. Many stories are touched upon, but none are fully developed. The fragments of poetry fluctuate in time and setting and mingle English with Spanish and Spanglish (often untranslated in the appended glossary) in ways that are sometimes difficult to comprehend. Herrera offers glimpses of greater penetration and vision, but the overall package is a mishmash.-Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Public Library, NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060579845
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/9/2005
  • Pages: 176
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: NPL (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.12 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Juan Felipe Herrera traveled as a child with his parents through many small farming towns and cities in California, until finally settling in San Diego. He has taught poetry from kindergarten to the university level and is the author of numerous poetry and children's books, including Calling The Doves, which won the Ezra Jack Keats Award, and Crashboomlove, which was prized with the Americas Award. He also wrote Upside Down Boy, which was adapted into a musical in New York City, and Laughing Out Loud, I Fly, winner of a Pura Belpré honor award. He holds the Tomás Rivera endowed chair in creative writing at the University of California, Riverside. Juan Felipe lives and tours with the poet Margarita Luna Robles.

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Read an Excerpt

Cinnamon Girl

letters found inside a cereal box
By Juan Herrera

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Juan Herrera
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060579862

Chapter One

9/19/01 Wednesday night, Lower East Side, hospital,
4th floor

wrapped in gauze

Uncle DJ's
wrapped in gauze.

He dreams inside a foreign islita
that no one has discovered except himself.
There are congas under a tropical moon
gold nectar saxophones and pale blue-blue maraca stars.
The galaxy spins and then fire-bursts into a bird
from San Juan,

wings red-red as the Flamboyan tree,
and it speaks with the dark cinnamon of
the Caribbean night. Its eyes are aquamarine and
when it sings green-green rain pours and the soft
island sways to a hip-hop mambo of amor, then
adios. But --

I don't want to say adios.

Tape across the mouth
hands strapped
to the side of the hospital bed rails.

IV and blood bottle lines tangle
down to uncle DJ's arm.
A Darth Vader machine beeps
every time he breathes through a sky-white
see-through hose down his throat.

Sweep my thin hand across the bed rail
just in case there is dust
gnawing around the chrome.

Uncle DJ's swallowed enough dust --
two buildings of dust, Twin Towers of dust.
Last week, he called mama Mercedes andsaid,
Hey sis, gotta do something -- I came to deliver roses,
as usual, ya' know. A jet or something hit Tower One.
A blast, and then, another. Now, I gotta do something.
There's fire and screams all around.

Eleven thirty pm.
News TV. Blue flash inside
the eerie hospital room. Tia Gladys
talks loud to Mama:
What's happening to my city?
The feeling's gone, Mercedes. The melao' is missin'.
Yolanda Maria is my melao', Mama says.

Last night I dreamt
I went with Mama and tia Gladys to Ground Zero.

Tia Gladys digs
with her glossy orange fingernails.
A police dog barks and digs-digs too.
There is a tiny cone,
a hole
full of black nothing and tapping --
deep below the rubble. A moan. A long moan
from underground. Echoes up Canal Street to Chambers.
Rubble echoes -- one hundred feet high of broken
steel bones and tiny lives crushed forever.

Echo. Echo.
Salvamelo, tia Gladys prays out loud
in her plastic tiger-print jacket,
Diosito salvamelo, save him for me,
Hare lo que quieras, I'll do whatevah.
She makes a manda, a promise
like she did when mama Mercedes told her
last month that I was getting into trouble
at Longfellow School in West Liberty, Iowa.

She promised La Virgencita
that she would take us in
so I could get better. This morning,

tia Gladys mumbles another manda, something
about going back to Puerto Rico and helping
poor kids in Aguas Buenas.

In my dream,
Mama and aunt Gladys
kneel down slow on the sharp dust of the World
Trade Center -- like a church all broken.
A rescue worker with a dog says
I can hear him tapping . . .
tap, tap, tap!
Rescue Company #1
on his bitten shirt.

All of a sudden, bam! Like the crushed
tower, my throat gets fiery, then empty
in the hospital room -- uncle DJ!
I want to shout louder than
the Darth Vader machine. Nada, Nada.
Say something! Rezzy, my cool friend
from PS 1486, elbows me and says
in her typical English accent, Wula,
say something, Yolanda!

Rezzy's from Kuwait, new here too,
like me, tenth grade. Rezzy's hazel eyes
glow by the candlelight.
Are those the secret things that you
promised you would show me?

It's jes' a cereal box,
with my writing and some letters inside.
Pull them out in little bundles tied together with
red strings. Untie one and read it.
Maybe uncle DJ will hear me and wake up, I tell Rezzy.
Maybe, she says. Jes' maybe.


Continues...


Excerpted from Cinnamon Girl by Juan Herrera Copyright © 2006 by Juan Herrera. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 29, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    wonderful book

    A story well written that I could relate to on a personal level. A very good read!

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