About the Author
Erika Tamar is the award-winning author of nineteen books for children, including The Junkyard Dog, winner of the California Young Reader Medal and the Virginia Young Readers Award, and The Midnight Train Home, winner of the Western Writers of America Spur Award for best juvenile fiction.
Read an Excerpt
Sometimes Marisol let her feelings go bubbling out without thinking and then she wanted to disappear down a crack in the sidewalk. Like last Sunday outside East River Park. She had to stick with her big brother, Luis, on Sundays because Papi worked a double shift in the restaurant uptown. So Luis was hanging out with his friends, and this guy Eddie had a boom box playing salsa. Some of the guys were shuffling to the beat, so, honest, it wasn't just her. But the music was popping inside her, sweeping her along, and she swayed with it. Her blood was sizzling with the beat; she whirled and whirled and clapped her hands double-time above her head and-
"Cut it out," Luis muttered under his breath.
Marisol stopped short and there were her arms, foolishly stuck up in the air for no good reason. And Luis looked away real fast, like he didn't want to know her, and got busy talking to the guys. "Oh, snap," Marisol thought, "I did it again!"
Why did she always have to plunge right in, talk or dance or whatever, without thinking first! Eddie's box was still blasting, but she made up her mind she wouldn't ever move a muscle, no matter how much the music pulled at her. She was ten, too old to make a spectacle of herself.
She'd learn to be as cool and controlled as Luis. She watched him. He was slouched against the fence, slicking his hair back while he talked.
The boys were eyeing the low-slung shiny black car at the curb. It had to cost a fortune, Marisol thought. It belonged to that man called Tito and he was richer than God. She'd see him on Loisada, walking his German shepherd and wearing a long black leather coat. Youcould tell his leather was the soft-as-butter kind. And the way he went by, like he owned the street ... No one would lay a hand on Tito's car, that was for sure.
They were talking and talking and talking. Marisol shifted her weight from foot to foot. It was cold for September. She could hear the wind rustling the scraggly bushes. How long was Luis going to hang out, anyway? Daylight was getting shorter every day; lights were already flickering on at the Avenue D projects. They were supposed to be home and safely locked in before dark, Papi said. And she had to pee.
She tugged at the sleeve of Luis's sweatshirt.
He swatted her hand off like he'd swat a fly and kept on talking. "And anyway, a Lamborghini's better 'cause..."
She tugged again.
"What?" he snarled.
"When are we going home?" she said.
"In a minute." He turned back to the guys. "No competition, 'cause "
"Give me the keys," Marisol said.
"Papi wants you staying with me.... Hey, listen, if I was racing-"
"Why can't you just give me the keys?" Marisol said.
"Wait a minute! I'm leaving in a minute!" He kept his face stony like always, but she knew he wished she wasn't around. "If I was racing, that's the machine, man. I'd-"
When he was with his friends, Marisol thought, his minute was in Puerto Rican time and could last half an hour.
The autumn chill creeping under her sweater made the urge worse. She was embarrassed, but finally she had to whisper to him, "I gotta go."
"Okay, okay, all right." He sighed from the bottom of his sneakers. "Later, guys."
They walked west past Avenue D. Marisol looked up at him. "Are you mad?"
"No," he said, "but you keep interrupting."
"I don't need to tag along next Sunday," Marisol said. "I'm doing something with my Big Sister."
"You like her?" Luis asked.
"Yeah, she's fun."
"She's a cop!"
"She's nice. "
"She's still a cop," Luis said.
"So? Cops are okay."
"Yeah," Luis said, "tell me about it."
Something happened to Luis last summer. Some cops stopped him in the street for no good reason, and frisked him up against the wall, just like on TV. Everybody on the street that day was mad and yelling; Luis Perez was no troublemaker, they had him mixed up with someone else! Everybody knew he worked at the Isla Verde Superette every day after school, and Mr. Rivera even said he was a hard worker, and dependable.
Everyone liked him. On summer Sundays, when his team played baseball in East River Park, the cheers would go "Luis! Luis!" and Marisol would explode with feeling so proud. He was only fifteen, but he was a better athlete than lots of the older guys. He was good-looking, too-more than once, women in the neighborhood teased, "Ay, those eyelashes wasted on a boy!"
It wasn't just because he was her brother, he was special. Marisol glanced up at him. She hated having him think she was a burden, dragging him down on his day off.
"I don't know why Papi makes me stay with you," she said. "I can take care of myself."
"Yeah, I know," Luis said. "Papi's too careful."
That was the truth, Marisol thought. It was because he was trying to raise them right, all by himself. A lot of people had said he couldn't do it, not without a woman in the house and keeping his shifts uptown at the same time. But Mrs. Garcia had helped until Marisol was old enough for the after-school program and it had all worked out. Except for not having a mother, so that's why she got a Big Sister, 'cause Papi thought she ought to have someone to ask about woman things. She knew all those things-he thought she was still five!
"Following you around all day is so dumb." She kind of liked hanging out with Luis, but it would be better if it was his choice.
"Hey, I don't love it, either. But Papi said."
They were both stuck obeying his rules, Marisol thought.
"When I'm away and working uptown, I got to trust you're doing what I tell you even if I'm not there." Papi kept making that same speech. "It's hard on everybody without Mami, so you both got to hold up your end or else this family falls apart."
"Mami." Marisol couldn't call her that because she'd never really known her, she'd died so long ago. She'd say " my mother" or "Maria." In the wedding photo in the living room, she was beautiful, with a sweet smile. Luis looked something like her, Marisol thought; she didn't at all. But she wasn't sure-a photograph was only one second and sometimes people looked altogether different in real life. Luis remembered, enough to miss her, so Marisol couldn't ask him much-his face would get closed up.Alphabet City Ballet. Copyright © by Erika Tamar. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Sensational Alphabet City By Samantha I think Erika Tamer¿s Alphabet City is a book every one should read. Merisel, the youngest of her and her brother, is a marvelous person. First of all she gets through the troubles her brother gives her. She also struggles through the toughness and discipline of her ballet class. To get to her ballet class she has to go with her friend Desiree and her mother. Like me Merisel is active and loves to dance. Any music she hears her feet move to the rhythm. She also dances up and down the streets of Alphabet City listening to the salsa music. I liked this book so much because it was fun filled and exiting of how Merisel and her brother get through the troubles of their family and Alphabet City. I¿m sure anyone who would read this book will give it four stars like I do.