Young Adult Literature


Gypsy Rizka
by Lloyd Alexander


From School Library Journal
Grade 5-8-Master storyteller Alexander has another winner in this story of Rizka, a young Gypsy living alone in her wagon on the outskirts of Greater Dunitsa while awaiting the return of her father. Her irrepressible and quick-witted style of helping the townspeople exposes their ridiculous foibles as she tricks them with ruses that create hilarious situations yet turn out for the best. Rizka has her finger in everything: runaway lovers; floods; magical caves; and the dreaded Zipple, a relentless breeze that drives the citizens a little crazy. While she evokes either adoration or aggravation in the town, at the book's conclusion, when the Gypsies finally return but with news of her father's death, Rizka learns the real meaning of family and community. Much in the novel is familiar in structure, characterization, style, and theme to previous works by Alexander: an imaginary land; an array of wonderfully exaggerated characters; events as a series of comic twists and turns; and humor that is farcical, satirical, tongue-in-cheek, and often derived from playing on words. But what is most quintessential Alexander is the creation of a strong heroine adept at triumphing by her wits. What is less familiar here is the plot. Gypsy Rizka reads like a series of vignettes, driven less by a strong story and a thematic wrestle between good and evil than earlier novels. Rizka is cut from the same cloth as the bright and brassy Mickle from the "Westmark" trilogy and the plucky star of the five titles in the "Vesper Holly" series. Fans will be delighted.
Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME
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