cover image Soda Jerk

Soda Jerk

Cynthia Rylant. Orchard Books (NY), $15.95 (45pp) ISBN 978-0-531-05864-0

Although this unique collaboration by Rylant and Catalanotto is in the format of a 48-page picture book, it is intended for young adult readers. The 28 untitled, resonant poems are an extended dramatic monologue by the book's title character, a sensitive boy who works as a soda jerk in a small Virginia town. ``Living in Cheston,'' he tells the reader, ``is like living in a dream / somebody else is having,'' and it is through the boy's eyes that the reader sees the characters who live in Rylant's southern Spoon River. None are more vividly rendered than the observant narrator himself who, even if he never manages to leave town, consoles himself that at least he ``never slept through the whole show.'' Catalanotto's six richly textured paintings of the drugstore, panoramas evocative of small-town life, are placed like a gallery display at the beginning and middle of the book. Rylant's text is characteristically lyrical and thoughtful. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)