cover image Happy Yellow Car

Happy Yellow Car

Polly Horvath. Farrar Straus Giroux, $15 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-374-32845-0

Horvath (An Occasional Cow) returns with another off-center, perpetually surprising comic novel, this one set during the Depression. The Grunt family is a motley crew; and its one bright light is daughter Betty, whose intellectual tendencies lead Mrs. Grunt to secretly sock away some money for a college fund. But the normally taciturn Mr. Grunt (whose chief remark is ``hrunk'') surprises the whole family when he stumbles across the money and uses it to purchase a bright yellow automobile. With not a spare cent in the house, Betty must summon all her ingenuity when she is named the Pork Fry Queen, an honor contingent upon her raising a dollar for flowers. Betty is aided and abetted by an assortment of memorable family members as she investigates the rumor that a fortune is squirreled away on the family farm. Fresh humor and razor-sharp dialogue compensate for the abruptness of the ending; similarly, the conclusion's slight ambiguities are more than offset by its thoughtful, resonant themes. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)