Color of My Words

( 17 )


Twelve-year-old Ana Rosa is a blossoming writer growing up in the Dominican Republic, a country where words are feared. Yet there is so much inspiration all around her — watching her brother search for a future, learning to dance and to love, and finding out what it means to be part of a community — that Ana Rosa must write it all down. As she struggles to find her own voice and a way to make it heard, Ana Rosa realizes the power of her words to transform the world around her — ...

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Twelve-year-old Ana Rosa is a blossoming writer growing up in the Dominican Republic, a country where words are feared. Yet there is so much inspiration all around her — watching her brother search for a future, learning to dance and to love, and finding out what it means to be part of a community — that Ana Rosa must write it all down. As she struggles to find her own voice and a way to make it heard, Ana Rosa realizes the power of her words to transform the world around her — and to transcend the most unthinkable of tragedies.

When life gets difficult for Ana Rosa, a twelve-year-old would-be writer living in a small village in the Dominican Republic, she can depend on her older brother to make her feel better--until the life-changing events on her thirteenth birthday.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In finely wrought chapters that at times read more like a collection of related short stories than a novel, Joseph (Jump Up Time) presents slices from the life of Ana Rosa just as she is about to turn 13. Through the heroine's poetry and recollections, readers gain a rare intimate view of life in the Dominican Republic. Ana Rosa dreams of becoming a writer even though no one but the president writes books; she learns to dance the merengue by listening to the rhythms of her beloved ocean; and the love of her older brother, Guario, comforts her through many difficulties. The author's portraits of Ana Rosa and her family are studies in spare language; the chapters often grow out of one central image--such as the gri gri tree where Ana Rosa keeps watch over her village and gets ideas for her writing--giving the novel the feel of an extended prose poem. The brevity of the chapters showcases Joseph's gift for metaphoric language (e.g., her description of Ana Rosa's first crush: "My dark eyes trailed him like a line of hot soot wherever he went"). When the easy rhythms of the girl's island life abruptly change due to two major events, the author develops these cataclysms so subtly that readers may not feel the impact as fully as other events, such as the heroine's unrequited love. Still, it's a testimony to the power of Joseph's writing that the developments readers will empathize with most are those of greatest importance to her winning heroine. Ages 8-12. (Aug.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
This is a breathtaking story about Ana Rosa, set in the Dominican Republic. Ana is a 12-year-old girl with a fierce passion for words: she uses any scrap of paper she can find to transfer the poems in her head. She knows that she must write, that it is an essential part of who she is. Guario is Ana's brother and also someone that she admires. Guario believes in his young sister's powerful and beautiful words and encourages her to never stop dreaming of becoming a writer. Guario helps Ana realize how much power there is in words. Amidst this story of Ana and her brother is the underlying struggle for freedom. Guario desires a future different from his job as a waiter. Ana dreams of writing down all of the words that swirl and come alive in her head, and the people of the island struggle against intruders wishing to destroy their home and way of life to construct hotels and tourist attractions. Her words contribute to both transformation and tragedy on her island. This story gives great insight to the power and importance of dreams, as well as educating the reader about the culture and society of the Dominican Republic. KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 2000, HarperTrophy, 140p., Silva
From The Critics
Ana Rosa is about to turn 13. Born and raised in the Dominican Republic, she now dreams of becoming a writer. Yet Ana knows how unusual this wish is since the only person she knows who write books in her country is the nation's leader, President Baluaguer. Moreover, Ana's mother fears for her daughter's safety if she writes. As her mother says, those brave enough "to hurl words at the government," have died. Much to her mother's dismay, though, Ana does write. Encouraged by her older brother, Guario, Ana begins writing her thoughts on her brother's notepad, but soon, Ana's words become deadly. When the government evicts the residents in her town to make room for foreign investors, Ana Rosa writes an article for the local newspaper, quoting her older brother's anger, and as a result, Guario is brutally shot down. Sadness ensues, but Ana does not lose her desire to write. Soon, as a gift, Ana receives a typewriter and hundreds of sheets of paper. Enthused, she begins typing furiously her brother's story. Ana's dream is that the world will know of her brother's short but heroic life. With every chapter beginning with a poem, readers of all ages will relate to this moving story of the triumph of the human will. Genre: Poetry/Dominican Republic 2000, HarperCollins, 138 pp., $14.95 . Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Dena R. Wheeler; Orlando, Florida
From The Critics
"Sometimes you have no control over what will happen next, as I discovered the year I was twelve years old ..." The setting is the Dominican Republic. The protagonist and narrator is Ana Rosa, a young girl who desperately yearns to be a famous writer. This is a struggle since the people in Ana Rosa's life fear the power of words. Even Ana Rosa's beloved brother fears change. In a country where dancing is as natural as talking, Ana Rossa cannot dance. The young girl explores in her poetry the pain and joy of her life as she writes. When the bulldozers and the guardia come to destroy the lush landscape of Ana Rosa's village, she writes. The resort for tourists becomes a cause described in the lyrical poetry of the young girl. Her words prove to be a rally call for her neighbors, family, and friends. As in so many novels in which a powerful central character is developed, Ana Rosa proves to be genuine and worthy of emulation. This is an intricate story with grief, pain, love, and sentiment as companions. The writing itself is rich with dialogue and particularly sensitive to the kinds of details that make the characters and setting come to life. This will be a difficult novel to encourage children in the middle age range to read and even more to appreciate. It causes one to ponder, reflect; it makes use of egocentric conversations; and to it develops little if any humor in the text, meaning it is not the material most preteens read. Yet, the reading can be a reward in itself. I would encourage teachers to read The Color of My Words aloud. The words come alive within the oral tradition. 2000, HarperCollins, $14.95. Ages 9 to 12. Reviewer: Cherie Clodfelter — The Five Owls,January/February 2001 (Vol. 15 No. 3)
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8- Narrator Lisa Vidal superbly captures the voice of a young Dominican girl caught between the fire of her creative dreams and the realities of her role in a politically repressive society in Lynn Joseph's poignant novel (HarperCollins, 2000). Weaving the rhythms of her culture with her own poetic style, 12-year-old Ana Rosa vividly depicts life on her island homeland. She longs to be a writer, but with no money for paper, she writes on brown bags, napkins, and even in her brother's waiter's notebook. Onto these blank pages, she pours out the heartbreak of her first love, the shock of discovering her beloved Papi is not her real father, and her despair over the government's decision to raze their village. Although self-expression is dangerous in this political climate, Ana Rosa' s mother urges her to follow her heart. Soon after, Ana Rosa is chosen to write a protest to the newspaper in an effort to halt the destruction of their village. Her first taste of celebrity is tinged with heartbreak, as it results in the death of her beloved brother, Guario. Vowing never to write again, Ana Rosa sinks into despair until she realizes that she can use her gift to bring her brother to life again on paper. This is the story of his heroism told through the eyes of an adoring younger sister. The sprinkling of Spanish words throughout adds just the right touch to this richly crafted tale of the triumph of spirit in the face of poverty and oppression.-Laurie Edwards, Dauphin County Library System, Harrisburg, PA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780064472043
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/28/2002
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 231,356
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 840L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 7.62 (h) x 0.28 (d)

Meet the Author

Lynn Joseph was born in Trinidad and is the author of many picture books for children about her island home, including A Wave in Her Pocket, An Island Christmas, The Mermaid's Twin Sister, and Jump Up Time: A Trinidad Carnival Story. This is her second novel about the Dominican Republic, following her acclaimed book The Color of My Words, winner of the Américas Award. She has two sons, Jared and Brandt, and resides in New York and Bermuda.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Sometimes you have no control over what will happen next, as I discovered the year I was twelve years old'but sometimes you do. And when you do, that's when it is time to take charge because you sure don't know when the chance will come again.

Wash Day

Saturday is wash day for Mami and medown by the river that flows to the sea.We carry the baskets high on our hips. We juggle the soap, the scrub board, and clips.

Our friends wave hola as we slippery-slide On river—age stones to the other side.Where sun rays glimmer on a whisper of shade.And Mami and me tie our hair up in braids.

Then WHACK! I smack the clothes on the rocksto scare out all dirt and grassy spots.Mami scrubs them up and down,and we both swirl them round and round.

Sparkling white, and river cleanthe clothes smell like fresh-air dreams.We clip them safe to bushes and treesto dry in the sun and flap in the breeze.Later, under the moon's blue lightMami and me smooth the wrinkled clothes right.We fold them into neat little squaresAnd take them back home for all to wear.

Wash day was the day i'd get Mami all to myself. For me it was the best day of the week. Unless it rained. Then I'd have to keep on sharing Mami with everyone, especially Papi, who sat on the porch and never moved. Mami had no time to pat her hair down, let alone share private thoughts the way we did on wash day.

At the river's edge, I'd tell Mami all the special things I had thought about during the week. If I wrote a new poem, I would recite it to her while we dipped our hands into the cool water. Itwas just me and her and the river. No other hands, no other ears.

Mami was the only person who knew I wanted to write books when I grew up. I knew it was a strange thing to want to do, because we sure didn't know any writers around here. In fact, Papi told me that in the República Dominicana, only the President could write books.

I think it's true. I went to the libreria and I saw a lot of books by President Balaguer. I told Mami this during one wash day. We were pounding the clothes with rocks, and I gripped mine hard as I beat the dirt out of Papi's overalls and my brother Guario's waiter uniforms.

Mami didn't say anything. She just kept turning her sheet over and over as she pounded away. Finally she looked up and said, “Ana Rosa, there always has to be a first person to do something.”

I think Mami was telling me that there was no reason why I couldn't try and be the first writer who wasn't President of our Island. Either that or she was hinting that I should run for President, and then if I won I could write what I wanted.

Sometimes Mami's words are a puzzle. I have to spin them around and around in my head as if I am doing a mental merengue. Sooner or later I figure out the dance, but sometimes I wish she would just say what she means straight out.

Papi might sound as if he is talking in a puzzle, but I always know exactly what he means. Like when I asked him if I could have a notebook just for writing my poems in. He said, “Muchacha, your head is getting bigger than your hat.”

When I told Mami this on our next wash day, she laughed. But I could tell the laugh was only in her throat and not in her heart.

“Your papi says funny things sometimes, carino,” she said. “He's a dreamer.”

“A dreamer?” I asked. “How can you say that, Mami? All Papi does is sit on the porch and drink rum.”

Mami's hand shot out faster than a lizard under a rock. I felt the pain on my cheek before I realized what had happened.

“You have no hair on your tongue, chica. Be careful!”

I swallowed my tears and beat the clothes harder. Wash day had never been a day of sharp words and slaps. I felt as if Papi was a rock falling down from the hills and into our river. After the big splash, there was nothing but silence.In daylight, silence is louder and angrier than at any other time. There are no sweet measures of silence such as night's stars, or evening's sunset, or morning's growing light. There is only bright, hard silence and it sounds louder than drums.

I glanced over at Mami. She was dipping the clothes into the river. “Look, Ana Rosa,” she said. “Look at the river.”

I looked. The water rushed around Mami's brown knees and through her blistered red fingers, leaving wet kisses on her skin.

“It'll never pass this way again,” she said. “Off it will go down to the sea, where it will foam with the waves and swim with the fish and glide ships along on steady or rough courses depending on its mood. Around and around the world it will go, this water that slips by me so quickly. Far from the República Dominicana, far from me, but always under the same sky and sun.”

I had never heard Mami say so much at one time. I looked closely at the river but I could not see all that she saw in it.

“You are this river, Ana Rosa,” she whispered. “But you must flow softly around the rocks on your way to meet the sea. There you can do as you wish.”

Mami's words were gentle. But her brown eyes were slits of worry like moon slices on a dark night. There was no happiness in the smile she gave me.

Many days and nights I thought about Mami's words. But no matter how I turned them or shook them or chased them from my mind, they always came back telling me the same thing. Mami was scared.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 17 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2010

    the color of my words

    verry sad and absorbing, This is a wonderfull story of a girl with a passion for writing living in dominican republic

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2006

    Read this realistic book my fans!!!!!

    If you like to read realistic fiction stories keep on reading and find out about the book The Color Of My Words¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿¿. This book is about a girl named Ana Rosa and her family who lived in a town called Savannah in the Dominican Republic. Her passion was writing. Unfortunaly her family was so poor that they could¿nt afford to buy her a notebook. Ana Rosa did¿nt know how to dance until her father taught her. One day Ana Rosa found out the truth about her past that she would never forget. Later it was announced that the government was going to take over the village of Savannah. Guario her brother, went to fight for his village. Will Guario win the battle for their village? Will Ana Rosa be able to help him? I really liked the characterization that the author Joseph Lynn used in this book, for example Ana Rosa was adventures, because she loved writing different kind of stories. She was curious too, because when she wanted to write on something, she looked for Guario¿s notepad. Another one of my favorite characters is Guario. He was brave, because when the government wanted to take over the village he went to fight for it. He was responsible too, because he always made sure that he had his notepad was secured. Ana Rosa¿s mom was responsible because she always made sure that her kids did everything well. She was sometimes furious too, because one day Ana Rosa lied to her and she got mad at her. I think the author did well in description, for example she described really specific how Ana Rosa felt when she found out the truth about her past. I felt sort of surprised when the government was going to take over Ana Rosa¿s village. I recommend this book to my friends, because my friends like to read realistic fiction books.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 19, 2010

    it's an alrite book had to read it for a class and have to write a review.

    This book is about a 12 year old girl name Ana Rosa. She lives in the Dominican Republic. At first she thinks her dad is a drunk father and no good.But she relizes that hes a good guy. He tought her how to dance and all that good stuff. Ana writes poems. She loves to write but she isnt really aloud to write because the country she lives in it is frowned opon. But she doesnt care. Her family cant really be behind her or they could get in trouble. One day she finds her older brother Guario's notebook for work and she decides to write in every page with her poems. The next day her brother is freaking out because he cant find his notebook. He is afraid he is going to get fired. Ana keeps quiet about it til the next day. And secretly her family loves her writings. One day there was a festival going on in her neighborhood they claim to see a monster in the ocean.When the government finds out about this whole thing it goes bad. With a poem, she assures her family that Papi is her only father, good or bad. When the government threatens to take their land, she and her brother Guairo protest. While protesting something happens to Guairo...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2010

    The color of my words

    I would recommend this book to a friend beacuse a younge girl see the world as if it is the most beautiful thing and she figures that it is just to much to see that she must write it all down.
    she see her brother looking for the fututer but she see that he is the future. As she tries to get noticed for her writing and to be heard.
    when she relizes that the power of her words can transfrom anything and some of the things are tragedies of her like lossing her brother and watching him died and she can not do anything to help him .she decied that her punishment is to never write again. When she finds outs that befor her brother die that he asked his parents to promis him that if he is gone befor them that thay eill never let her to stop writing.she stars to write again for him but she does not write article she writes about his life and how great of a brother that anyone one could ever have.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2006


    Ana Rosa has big dreams of becoming a writer in a country where the only books published are ones by the president.She faces many troubles but none prepare her for what happens last. A wonderful book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2006

    The color of her words get cloudy at times

    There were great parts to the book, especially when sentences seemed like individual poems, but I have to say this is one book I won't be keeping.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2005

    Perfect for teenagers - available in English and Spanish

    The Color of My Words is an excellent book for teenagers, especially those learning English as a Second Language. Teens identify with the main character and live with her her dreams of writing. As an aspiring writer of books for teenagers, I was very impressed with it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2004

    excellant book

    this was a groovy book. i was just very surprised to find out that the author wasnt Spanish. i figured that she was writing the book based on her experiences in the Dominican Republic.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2004

    This book is cool.

    This story is about a twelve year old girl named Ana Rose.She is a girl that want some paper but her mother those not have enough money.Then one day she was temped to write so she got her brother's notebook.Then she used the whole notebook.Then she hid the notebook so she won't disappoint her brother.Then her father told her to go dance with him.That she would teach him.Her greatest dream is to part of the community.She loved to write alot and she like to write her stuff in paper but she had no paper.As she struggles to find her own voiceand a way to be heard.Ana Rose realizes the power of her words to transform the world around her-and to transcend the most unthinkable of tragedies.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2003

    Its an outstanding book

    The book takes place on the Republica Dominicana. Its about a girl name Ana Rosa. She lives with her mom, dad, her brother Guario and her sister Angela. Guario works in a restaurant searching for a future. Ana Rosas dad always sits on the porch to drink. Ana Rosa really wants to have a notepad but her family cant afford to buy her one. Ana Rosa has lots of inspirations all around her and she loves to write. Papi likes to dance salsa, merengue, and bachata but Ana Rosa doesn¿t know how to dance so people cant believe that she is her dads daughter because she cant dance. Her dad tries to teach her how to dance but Ana Rosa cant dance but then once when Ana Rosa came from school her dad took her to the beach Ana Rosa really wanted to know what was wrong but her parents didn¿t told her nothing until her dad took her to the beach to teach her how to dance. Her dad tells her to feel the finally learned how to dance by feeling the sea music and he put a salsa CD. It took a wile to teach Ana Rosa how to dance but she I really like the author style it has lots of similes and its very poetic. It has some figurative language it also has dialogue and action. When the author is describing the an event you can imagine the story in your mind. I really recommend the book because its very beautiful what I more enjoy about the book are the poems I think they are also beautiful. The book its 139 pages long it seems to be long but its really easy the genre could be historical fiction because it could really happen and poetic because it has poems. By Someone who likes to read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2003

    Powerful Words

    This book is amazing.I always wanted to be a writer myself.And to hear her struggles is amazing.I loved it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2003


    This book was so great and a very intresting story! I highly recommend this book!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2002

    School # 2-Paterson, NJ

    Our school has an after school book club that is for 5th grade students. They LOVED the book. The students chose the book themselves and were very happy with their choice. We gave this book 5+ stars. A great read!!!!!!! Mrs Ferrer, Mrs. Santiago and Mrs.Oslizly

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2008

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2010

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