cover image The Old Man and His Door

The Old Man and His Door

Gary Soto. Putnam Publishing Group, $15.99 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-399-22700-4

A Mexican ditty inspired this buoyant caper about an elderly man who grows ""the hottest of hot chiles"" and raises pigs ""as plump as water balloons,"" but who is not very adept at listening to his wife. Leaving early for a barbecue with the neighbors, she instructs him to bring el puerco, the pig. But instead the preoccupied fellow removes la puerta from its hinges, and leaves home with a door on his back. It is a propitious mistake, since the well-intentioned man uses this item to perform several important services, among them entertaining a bawling baby and saving a drowning boy. And, as a result of his distractions, he accumulates a range of edibles that are eagerly consumed at his neighbors' feast. A fluid storyteller, Soto (Too Many Tamales) peppers this animated narrative with Spanish words, which are translated in a glossary that precedes the story. Working in an unusually warm palette of heated-up violets, rubies and greens, Cepeda (The Cat's Meow) relies on skillful use of color in broadly delineated compositions to flesh out el viejo's personality and augment the story's humor. Especially endearing are the images of one jovial, unquestionably plump pig who, thanks to the absent-minded hero, ends up being nobody's dinner. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)