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How Tia Lola Came to Stay

Review

How Tia Lola Came to Stay

In HOW TIA LOLA CAME TO STAY, Miguel and his sister Juanita are facing the twin terrors of their parents' divorce and the move from New York City to a new home in Vermont. They don’t expect anything but more hurt feelings and complications when their Tia (“aunt” in Spanish) Lola comes to “visit" them in Vermont. 

Miguel quickly realizes that his Spanish heritage is unique (to say the least) in Vermont and he wants desperately to fit in. The appearance of Tia Lola in her bright lipstick, colorful dresses, mysteriously shifting beauty mark and enormous displays of affection embarrass Miguel. He becomes fearful that this “difference” in his household will prevent him from making the friends that would make life a little easier.

There is a surprise in store; Tia Lola is far from being a liability in the lives of Miguel, Juanita and their Mami (“Mom” in Spanish). Tia Lola is sensitive to the needs of everyone and while she speaks literally no English (at first!) she understands what she can do to ease the pain of the divorce. The funniest part of the book is when Alvarez hilariously, but without mocking, Alvarez writes about Tia Lola's attempts to learn English. Miguel meets her halfway by speaking “Spanglish”, which is what his mother calls his own brand of language, blending English with Spanish.  

Communication is the beginning of all understanding and this is where the story starts to take a turn. Tia Lola truly begins to be part of the family when she accompanies Miguel and Juanita on a trip to New York City to visit with their much-missed and beloved father. Though they temporarily lose Tia Lola in the big city due to her insatiable curiosity, the kids realize what her presence in their lives has come to mean to them.  
 
The book ends in a warm way, exemplifying Alvarez’s desire to write a triumphant tale about the importance of knowing who you are, family ties, and the ability to make it through when it looks like the odds are stacked against you. She even includes a page entitled “ A Word About the Spanish” for non-fluent readers. And she provides a key to the special slang and pronounciation of the Dominican Republic, her homeland. She is a sensitive writer who cares for her characters as well as her readers!

Reviewed by Michelle Reale on April 10, 2001

How Tia Lola Came to Stay
by Julia Alvarez

  • Publication Date: April 10, 2001
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0375802150
  • ISBN-13: 9780375802157