by Julie HaleNovember, 2007
The Flamenco Academy
Sarah Bird brings humor and authenticity to her sixth novel, the story of two teenagers struggling to adapt to life's unexpected twists and turns. Cyndi Rae is 17 when her family moves to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where her father soon dies of cancer. Fortunately, Cyndi finds a friend in Didi Steinberg, a rebellious outsider who also lost her own father to cancer. Cyndi and Didi quickly bond and attempt to deal with their grief, while their mothers sink into despair. When Cyndi meets Tom‡s Montenegro, a gorgeous and talented flamenco guitarist, her life takes another unforeseen turn. Captivated and inspired by Tom‡s, she decides to study flamenco dancing, partly in hopes of winning his affection. Cyndi's teacher is Do–a Carlota Anaya de Montenegro, a revered flamenco instructor and Tom‡s' great-aunt. Do–a Carlota raised Tom‡s, and as Cyndi Rae discovers she knows him better than anyone else. Once Didi decides to take lessons from Do–a Carlota, a sort of competition ensues between the two girls, with Tom‡s as the ultimate prize. As Do–a Carlota teaches them, she tells her own story, recalling her life in Spain and revealing much about Tom‡s along the way. Bird sets up a wonderful contrast between Do–a Carlota's past and the lives of teenagers in modern-day New Mexico. She writes beautifully about the art of flamenco, Gypsy culture and Spanish history. A reading group guide is included in the book.