cover image Later, Gator

Later, Gator

Laurence Yep, Eric Valasquez. Hyperion Books, $13.95 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-0059-9

Adopting a light tone far removed from the solemnity of Hiroshima (see boxed review, page 297), Yep trains his attention on a close-knit family in San Francisco's Chinatown. Teddy's mother, insisting that he put some effort into choosing a birthday present for his practically perfect younger brother, sends him to the pet shop to buy a turtle. But Teddy, no paragon, picks out a baby alligator instead, hoping to horrify little Bobby. (A note tacked onto the end of the novel advises readers on more humane approaches to choosing a pet.) Bobby, however, is thrilled, and Teddy finds himself working with Bobby to persuade their parents to let the alligator stay. Yep's portrayal of the family is warm, wise and humorous. In examining classic issues like sibling rivalry, he adds the special filter of the Chinese American experience: just after Teddy complains to his mother that everyone likes Bobby better than him, Teddy tells the reader, ``Right about now I could have really used a hug. My parents, though, never showed their affection like the white parents on television. I wanted a hug so bad that it almost hurt.'' The story may be a slender one, but the insights here are generous. Ages 8-12. (May)