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Mercy on These Teenage Chimps

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About the Author

Gary Soto's first book for young readers, Baseball in April and Other Stories, won the California Library Association's Beatty Award and was named an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. He has since published many novels, short stories, plays, and poetry collections for adults and young people. He lives in Berkeley, California. Visit his website at


Soto (Accidental Love) offers a send-up of adolescence in this intermittently amusing yet rather repetitious saga narrated by a boy who, on his 13th birthday, "woke up as a chimpanzee." Ronnie suddenly notices that his ears are splayed, his nose appears "flatter than ever," and his chin sports "peachy fuzz." Not only that, but he notices, "my gait seemed wider and was sort of rolling and [my arms] were hanging so low at my side that I could tie my shoes without bending over." His best friend, Joey, exhibits the same "teenage chimp" symptoms and takes to beating his chest and jumping up and down. The monkey metaphors come fast and furiously: at a sports awards ceremony, Joey climbs up into the rafters of the gym to rescue a balloon belonging to Jessica, a cute girl who has caught his eye (a coach bellows, "What do you think you are? A monkey?"). Mortified, Joey takes up residence in a tree in his yard. Ronnie then attempts to convince the coach to apologize to his tree-bound pal and also to play Cupid between Joey and Jessica (and between the coach and his estranged wife). He encounters some obstacles, but eventually succeeds. Despite a surfeit of overblown primate-related quips, Soto shapes sympathetic young characters and pulls off some comical hyperbole while imparting a worthy message about self-acceptance. Ages 12-up. (Jan.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

"* "A light-hearted, off-beat slice of life... Breezy and entertaining." - Kirkus Review."

Gr 5-8-When friends Ronnie Gonzalez and Joey Rios turn 13, their arms suddenly seem to hang to their knees and their ears stick out. Ronnie finds himself juggling his fruit instead of eating it, and Joey is thrown off the wrestling team for hooting at his vanquished opponent. The boys agree-they've turned into chimps, just like lots of other young teens they've known. They're embarrassed by how gross they smell, how often they need to shower, and their strong interest in girls. For their simian behavior in class, the boys receive detention, and the coach puts them to work setting up the auditorium for a special assembly. There, Joey falls hard for an award-winning gymnast, and, during the ceremony, he climbs the rafters to rescue her lost balloon. When the coach berates him as she watches, he feels humiliated, runs home, climbs into the tree in his backyard, and won't come down. Ronnie tries to save his friend's reputation and gets into some adventures of his own. Mercy is a short, light novel with plenty of funny insights into what happens when puberty leaves a big banana peel in every adolescent male's path. The story is set in a Northern California town, but the messages it shares are universal.-Walter Minkel, New York Public Library Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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