Cover image for In the shade of the níspero tree
In the shade of the níspero tree
Bernier-Grand, Carmen T.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Orchard Books, 1999.
Physical Description:
186 pages ; 22 cm
Because her mother wants her to be part of the world of high society in their native Puerto Rico, nine-year-old Teresa attends a private school but loses her best friend.
Reading Level:
640 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 4.1 6.0 67334.

Reading Counts RC 3-5 5.1 10 Quiz: 24244.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library X Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Because her mother wants her to be part of the world of high society in their native Puerto Rico, nine-year-old Teresa attends a private school but loses her best friend.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 4^-7. Set in Puerto Rico in 1961, this story features Teresa Giraux and her best friend, Ana, who are looking forward to their fourth-grade teacher's wedding and the Ponce junior queen competition--until Teresa's pride and temper fracture their friendship. A socially ambitious seamstress, Teresa's mother has never invited Ana on family outings because Ana is not only poorer, she's also darker. Aided by one of her wealthy clients, Teresa's mother enrolls Teresa in an exclusive academy. Then it is she and Teresa who feel the sting of discrimination when they're excluded from a fashionable country club. Realizing how poorly they've treated Ana and her family, they give Ana Teresa's beautiful gown for the beauty pageant, an attitude shift that is both heartwarming and believable. Despite awkward patches and a tendency to belabor societal differences, this first novel vividly re-creates its particular time and place. It also imparts a very clear message about intolerance. Paired with Eleanor Estes' The Hundred Dresses (1944), with its own lessons of prejudice and dignity, this could spark lively classroom discussion. --Linda Perkins

Publisher's Weekly Review

A girl's dawning understanding of the racial prejudice in her societyÄand its magnetic pull on herÄis the subject of this thoughtful novel set in 1960s Puerto Rico. Mami, Teresa's mother, was part of la sociedad (high society) as a child and now wants Teresa to attend the Academia, the private school where the daughters of the wealthy study. But Teresa's father disdains high society ("la sociedad, as in high society?... Or la suciedad, as in dirt?" says he) and prefers that his daughter stay at the less prestigious Cordero school. Fourth-grader Teresa is happy at Cordero, too, until her beloved teacher marries and moves away. After she lies to her new teacher to avoid getting into trouble, her best friend, Ana, tells on her, and Teresa, having absorbed her mother's prejudices, decides she's better than darker-skinned Ana and deserves to be with the lighter-skinned girls at the Academia. At her new school, Teresa feels pressure to disparage her darker-skinned friends in order to fit in. Only when a private club rejects Teresa's family because they aren't "white" enough do Teresa and Mami realize that their own actions toward Ana and her parents have been equally unjust. If Bernier-Grand (Poet and Politician of Puerto Rico: Don Luis Munoz Marin) occasionally drives home her point with a heavy hand, her convincingly drawn characterizations of Teresa and Ana and her realistic picture of the hierarchy in Teresa's society more than compensate. Her portrait of Teresa, caught between her parents' polarized views, is especially well realized. Ages 8-12. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-6-A story about growing up in the 1960s in class-conscious Puerto Rico. Tere's father owns an auto-repair shop and her mother is a dressmaker. Mami aspires to fit into high society and especially to have her daughter attend the prestigious private Academia school. Papi does not want Teresa associating with snobs and does not think that they can afford it. And Tere doesn't want to leave her best friend, Ana. But when Tere and Ana attend their teacher's wedding and Tere notices the darkness of the groom's skin, Ana helps open her friend's eyes to the fact that their teacher, most of their friends, and Ana herself are black. Tere is stunned. "I couldn't believe it! To me, for somebody to be black, she or he had to be really black and have full lips and a wide nose...." It is then that Tere begins to become aware of her mother's blatant racism. Then, caught in a foolish lie at school, she decides to transfer to the Academia. As she tries to make her way among the competitive, shallow girls there, she loses herself again and again until she and her mother both finally see truth and mend their friendships. Tere never does come off as a fourth grader; while sometimes naive, her character seems more like an adolescent. Yet there are strong characterizations here, of both children and adults, and the immersion into a different culture is thorough and effective.-Susan Oliver, Tampa-Hillsborough Public Library System, FL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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