Gift Guide

How Tia Lola Came to (Visit) Stay

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When Miguel's Tía Lola comes from the Dominican Republic to Vermont to help out his Mami, who recently got divorced, Miguel is embarrassed by his unusual aunt: her beauty mark keeps changing places on her face, she drapes her lace mantilla across their windows, and she paints their house purple. Tía Lola's English is nonexistent—but how come she has no trouble making friends? And are the meatballs she puts in Miguel's lunchbox responsible for his making the baseball team? In each of these intertwining stories, ...
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When Miguel's Tía Lola comes from the Dominican Republic to Vermont to help out his Mami, who recently got divorced, Miguel is embarrassed by his unusual aunt: her beauty mark keeps changing places on her face, she drapes her lace mantilla across their windows, and she paints their house purple. Tía Lola's English is nonexistent—but how come she has no trouble making friends? And are the meatballs she puts in Miguel's lunchbox responsible for his making the baseball team? In each of these intertwining stories, Miguel finds his life changing in unexpected ways as he discovers himself.

Although ten-year-old Miguel is at first embarrassed by his colorful aunt, Tia Lola, when she comes to Vermont from the Dominican Republic to stay with his mother, his sister, and him after his parents' divorce, he learns to love her.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Alvarez (The Secret Footprints; How the Garc a Girls Lost Their Accents) creates a story that is alternately affecting and treacly, starring nine-year-old Miguel (who soon turns 10) and his younger sister, Juanita, as they attempt to adjust after their move from New York City to Vermont. T a Lola, their vivacious aunt, comes to visit from the Dominican Republic to help out their newly divorced mother. With her brightly patterned dresses and constantly shifting beauty mark, T a Lola is portrayed as both wise and childlike as she schemes to make everyone jolly. Miguel struggles with his parents' divorce and with schoolmates who can't pronounce his name and assume he will be a standout baseball player because of his roots. T a Lola, as surrogate parent, fixes everything with a "magic" touch that inspires great food, celebrations and gift giving. Alvarez carefully translates Lola's Spanish until near the end when, after first refusing to speak English and then speaking in whole borrowed phrases, she becomes quite adept at the second language. She cleverly names Miguel's baseball team, Charlie's Boys (after the disgruntled landlord, Colonel Charlebois), and then tells a perfectly constructed story in English. As likable as T a Lola is, some readers may have trouble believing her quick transformation. In addition, Miguel's long-distance father appears more involved in the boy's life than his own mother (with whom Miguel lives); the mother's character is never fully developed. Ages 9-12. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly
PW called this story of a nine-year-old boy and his younger sister attempting to adjust after their move from New York City to Vermont in the wake of their parents' divorce "alternately affecting and treacly." Ages 8-12. (Aug.)
Children's Literature
Miguel Guzmán can't decide if he wants his Aunt Lola to go back to the Dominican Republic or stay with them at their rented farmhouse in Vermont. He thinks she alternates between being charmingly entertaining and God-please-sink-me-into-the-floor embarrassing. As Miguel, his mother and his sister, Juanita, adjust to life outside New York City, they find that Tía Lola is a comfort during this time of divorce and transition. Vivacious, a wonderful cook, sociable and full of adventure, Tía Lola paints the house purple, sews jerseys for the Little League team and accompanies the children on a trip to New York to visit their Dad. In the end, Miguel and Nita spend Christmas with their mother's relatives in the Dominican Republic, meeting the extended family that is the center of Tía Lola's treasure-trove of amazing stories. Alvarez has written a contemporary multicultural story about family and growing up, with snippets of Spanish sprinkled throughout and an author's note explaining the differences between Dominican Spanish and standard Spanish. 2001, Alfred A. Knopf, $17.99 and $15.95. Ages 9 to 12. Reviewer: Chris Gill
School Library Journal
Gr 3-6-Miguel and Juanita Guzman and their mother have moved from New York City to rural Vermont, where Mami has taken a position as a college counselor. Left behind is their beloved Papi, a painter whom their mother is divorcing. To ease the transition and to help with baby-sitting, Mami has sent for her aunt from the Dominican Republic. From the moment the children meet her, glamorous T'a Lola creates a delightful whirlwind in their home, from her flamboyant appearance and tropical decorating to her lively music, exotic cooking, and vivid storytelling. Miguel, anxious to make friends and fit in, is both embarrassed and comforted by her warm presence and he half-believes her practice of the Santeria religion gives her magical powers, including the ability to get him on the baseball team. The youngsters' attempt to teach their aunt their language leads to many humorous situations as she interprets idioms literally and uses expressions inappropriately. Accompanying them on a visit to their father, she gets lost but, once found, helps them accept that the divorce will not threaten their parents' love for them. In the end, T'a Lola decides to stay. The story concludes with a Christmas holiday trip to the Dominican Republic where the children meet their mother's family for the first time and begin to accept that home is where love is. Readers will enjoy the funny situations, identify with the developing relationships and conflicting feelings of the characters, and will get a spicy taste of Caribbean culture in the bargain.-Marie Orlando, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From The Critics
Tia Lola has just arrived from the Dominican Republic with her bright dresses and odd habits, and Miguel is not so certain her odd ways are attractive or acceptable. Her habits make him stand out from his Vermont classmates and as hard as Miguel tries, he can't keep her hidden from his new friends. Her odd habits change his life in this moving multicultural story.
Child Magazine
A Child Magazine Best Book of 2001 Pick

It's horrible enough that 10-year-old Miguel has to move after his parents divorce -- from New York City to Vermont, where "his black hair and brown skin stand out" and he has yet to make a friend. But now, his flamboyant aunt from the Dominican Republic is coming to visit. How will Miguel ever fit in?

From the Publisher
"Like all good stories, this one incorporates a lesson just subtle enough that readers will forget they’re being taught, but in the end will understand themselves, and others, a little better, regardless of the la lengua nativa - the mother tongue. Simple, bella, un regalo permanente: simple and beautiful, a gift that will stay.”–Kirkus Reviews
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780606241366
  • Publisher: San Val, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/28/2002
  • Series: Tia Lola Stories Series
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 147
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 0.58 (d)

Meet the Author

Julia  Alvarez

Julia Alvarez is the award-winning author of How the García Girls Lost Their Accents, ¡Yo!, In the Time of the Butterflies, In the Name of Salomé, and a picture book, The Secret Footprints. Her most recent book for young readers is entitled Before We Were Free. She is a writer-in-residence at Middlebury College.


Julia Alvarez was born in New York City during her Dominican parents' "first and failed" stay in the United States. While she was still an infant, the family returned to the Dominican Republic -- where her father, a vehement opponent of the Trujillo dictatorship, resumed his activities with the resistance. In 1960, in fear for their safety, the Alvarezes fled the country, settling once more in New York.

Alvarez has often said that the immigrant experience was the crucible that turned her into a writer. Her struggle with the nuances of the English language made her deeply conscious of the power of words, and exposure to books and reading sharpened both her imagination and her storytelling skills. She graduated summa cum laude from Middlebury College in 1971, received her M.F.A. from Syracuse University, and spent the next two decades in the education field, traveling around the country with the poetry-in-the-schools program and teaching English and Creative Writing to elementary, high school, and college students.

Alvarez's verse began to appear in literary magazines and anthologies, and in 1984, she published her first poetry collection, Homecoming. She had less success marketing her novel -- a semiautobiographical story that traced the painful assimilation of a Dominican family over a period of more than 30 eventful years. A series of 15 interconnected stories that unfold in reverse chronological order, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents addresses, head-on, the obstacles and challenges immigrants face in adapting to life in a new country.

It took some time for "ethnic" literature to gain enough of a foothold in the literary establishment for Alvarez's agent, a tireless champion of minority authors, to find a publisher. But when the novel was released in 1991, it received strongly positive reviews. And so, at the tender age of 41, Alvarez became a star. Three years later, she proved herself more than a "one-hit wonder," when her second novel, In the Time of Butterflies was nominated for the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Award. Since then, she has made her name as a writer of remarkable versatility, juggling novels, poetry, children's books, and nonfiction with equal grace and aplomb. She lives in Vermont, where she serves as a writer in residence at her alma mater, Middlebury College. In addition, she and her husband run a coffee farm in the Dominican Republic that hosts a school to teach the local farmers and their families how to read and write.

Good To Know

From 1975 until 1978, Alvarez served as Poet-in-the-Schools in Kentucky, Delaware, and North Carolina.

She has held positions as a professor of creative writing and English at Phillips Andover Academy in Massachusetts (1979-81), the University of Vermont (1981-83), and the University of Illinois (1985-88).

In 1984, Alvarez was the Jenny McKean Moore Visiting Writer at George Washington University. Currently, she is a professor of English at Middlebury College.

She and her husband run a coffee farm, Alta Gracia, in the Dominican Republic.

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    1. Hometown:
      Middlebury, Vermont
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 27, 1950
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Middlebury College, 1971; M.F.A., Syracuse University, 1975

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