When Carlos and his family move to Los Angeles from Mexico, his uncle mutters angrily about their new city and the English language he calls "el Blah Blah." Uncle Tomas seems content only when telling Mexican legends in the evening. Author Tony Johnston sensitively explores family and cultural tensions in Uncle Rain Cloud. When the boy tells of his daily struggles in school, the grouchy man quietly realizes that "one finds courage in many places. Even in the third grade." The ending is marked by humor and compassion as the boy and uncle continue to wrestle with the English language—but with a new appreciation of one another. Mexican artist Fabricio VandenBroeck uses color and shadow to wonderful effect. 2001, Talewinds/Charlesbridge,
Carlos secretly calls Tio Tomas "Uncle Rain Cloud" because his uncle is so grouchy all the time. Thomas is especially so when they go to the supermarket and Carlos must translate for him. This immigrant family must bravely face a new culture together, especially when learning English which Tio Tomas calls "el Blah-Blah." This heartfelt story has a moving ending and a pronunciation guide so anyone can tackle the names of the tongue-twister gods from Mexico. 2001, Charlesbridge Publishing, $15.95. Ages 5 to 10. Reviewer: C. Leonard-Schmidling SOURCE: Parent Council, September 2001 (Vol. 9, No. 1)
Gr 1-3-Carlos's personal name for his T'o Tom s is "Uncle Rain Cloud," because he so often seems grumpy and discontented. His uncle becomes especially angry at the supermarket and when he picks Carlos up from school-both places where Carlos must translate for him. However, at home in the evening, when T'o Tom s tells stories of the old Mexican gods, he is assured, fluent, and energetic. One evening after harsh words are exchanged, the man finally tells his nephew how ashamed he is of being afraid to speak "el Blah-Blah," his term for English. Suddenly, Carlos understands. He, too, felt self-conscious about his imperfect understanding of the language when he first came to the United States. In a satisfying resolution, Carlos teaches his uncle English and T'o Tom s teaches him the old stories in their native Spanish. This concise tale about bridging cultures, languages, and generations will strike a chord with many children who are both learning English and translating for their families. The sensitive telling may also help monolingual children understand their classmates who are in that situation. Brisk pacing, sympathetic characters, and clear prose that uses embedded Spanish words effectively make a winner. VandenBroeck's acrylic and colored-pencil illustrations flesh out the narrative in soft, bright colors enhanced by dramatic shading. This could be used with Pat Mora's The Rainbow Tulip (Viking, 1999) or Jane Medina's My Name Is Jorge (Boyds Mills, 1999) to highlight the challenges faced by Hispanic students-and their various ways of triumphing.-Ann Welton, Terminal Park Elementary School, Auburn, WA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.