Thursday, March 6, 2008

My Little Car

Gary Soto is coming to Cunha Middle School here in Half Moon Bay for author's night. We live in a coast side town of about 12,000. I wonder if those middle schoolers know what a gift it is to hear Gary Soto speak about poetry, writing and Latino culture. If you're not familiar with his work read his poem Oranges . Sometimes he writes in the slang of a Mexican American Lowrider, like in Chato and the Party Animals. And one of my most favorite Christmastime books is Too Many Tamales. His middle grade fiction novels include Baseball in April, Living Up The Street, Petty Crimes and Buried Onions.

My Little Car, Mi Carrito, illustrated by Pam Paparone is a fun ride, I mean read. This book shows children the importance of taking care of what they have and who they love. Teresa's Abuelito Benito sends her a carrito for her birthday. "Look at the Flames!" She says about her lowrider pedal car. Everyone in the neighborhood admires her car and she wins first place in the school car show. She polishes the chrome with her dad and won't let her little sister touch it. Then one night she leaves her car out in the rain, birds poop on it, the flames start to peel off, and her dad backs over it in the driveway. When grandpa Benny comes to visit he hardly recognizes the carrito. "Pues, it looks older than me. ... Ready for the scrapheap." But, he tells her, "I still look prety sharp when I'm fixed up." So they work together on the car until it looks sharp again and Teresa tells her grandpa, "Mi Carrito is better than ever, just like you." (I didn't give away the exciting part about the dog.)

Pam Paparone
captures cultural details of this story such as the Lady of Guadalupe hanging from the rear view mirror of her neighbor's sparkling lowrider, the iron scroll work gates, or the painted windows of the neighborhood's Carniceria Gonzales. Her depiction of Teresa driving her carrito is reminiscent of a home movie- well, maybe an animated home movie.

The multi-purpose room at the local middle school should be full tomorrow evening. I wonder what Gary Soto will read? What will he tell our youth?


  1. Oooh I adore Gary Soto! This book looks wonderful.

  2. Yes- I agree he's terrific. And this book is much better then I can describe.


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