cover image The Pool Party

The Pool Party

Gary Soto. Delacorte Press, $13.95 (104pp) ISBN 978-0-385-30890-8

As he did in The Skirt , Soto again portrays a working-class Mexican American family. When Rudy Herrera is invited to a pool party by a wealthy classmate, he muses about what it will be like and tries to come up with an appropriate gift for his hostess. Rudy's relatives offer plenty of advice on how to make small talk and his father stresses that Rudy be proud of his heritage and his family--no matter what. In the days leading up to the big event Rudy and his friend Alex get into a few scrapes, but the pool toy that they finally find ends up being the hit of the party. This time out Soto delivers a quick read, liberally flavored with slapstick humor and sprinkled with a few stereotypical situations (the boys hitch a ride with two guys who have stolen a car, for example). The novel, however, lacks the flashes of emotional intensity found in the author's other works. Nonetheless, Rudy's eccentric grandfather, self-conscious teenage sister and other colorful characters, along with snippets of Spanish, lend authenticity to this breezy slice of Hispanic life. Casilla's black-and-white pencil drawings allow for some warm facial expressions, but are otherwise fairly static and do not elaborate much on the text. Ages 7-10. (June)