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Professor's Book Defends Government

Professor's Book Defends Government

(July 27, 2000)

East L.A.'s coolest low-riding cat, Chato, is back in Gary Soto's second children's book featuring the laid back tabby. Soto, a Fresno native, is a creative writing professor at the University of California, Riverside and author of the 32-page "Chato and the Party Animals," due on store shelves Aug. 7.

His latest book is the second collaboration for Penguin Putnam publishing between the Berkley-based writer and San Francisco artist Susan Guevara. The two worked together on Soto's first picture book, the best-selling "Chato's Kitchen," which came out in 1995.

Like "Chato's Kitchen," "Chato and the Party Animals" is filled with colorful barrio characters. There's Chato, the coolest cat in el barrio. The good-natured tabby sports baggy pants, a prominently displayed gold tooth, and a penchant for partying. And there's Novio Boy, a sleek, suave, soft-eyed tomcat, and Chato's best friend. He wears a bandana wrapped low across his forehead and a bejeweled kitty collar.

Novio boy shares Chato's sassy view of life but not his love of carousing.

The mere mention of birthday parties sends Novio Boy, a seemingly happy-go-lucky vato (dude), into a funk. Parties remind him of his pound kitty past. The story is about the importance of having roots, of knowing who you are, Soto said.

"I don't know when I was born. I never knew my mami," a teary-eyed Novio Boy tells Chato. "I never even had a birthday party, or nothing."

So Chato plans the coolest surprise party, making a prize-filled piñata, and cooking tasty treats such as refritos (refried beans), guacamole, salsa and tortillas with kitty paw impressions. He invites everyone in the neighborhood, but forget the guest of honor. Novio Boy shows up eventually and everything ends as it should.

The book is sprinkled with Mexican-American phrases such as carnal (brother), Simon! (of course!) and pachanga (party). Soto offers a glossary of Spanish terms and their English meanings at the beginning of the book.

Guevara's illustrations are colorful, iconic representations of Latino life. They offer hints to the layers of meaning in Mexican-American culture. There are religious wall hangings in Chato's home, a gold cross dangling from Novio Boy's collar, Mexican sayings sprinkled throughout, and lots of food and fun in both books.

Soto, an award-winning poet, has had a poem commissioned by the National Aeronautic and Space Administration. In September 1999, he received a Hispanic Heritage Award at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. He has been a member of the UCR faculty since July 1999.

Soto said, Perhaps his greatest reward would be knowing that Chato excited more Mexican-American children about books. "This is one of the few picture books that feature Latino youths, and in a positive light," Soto said.

Soto can be reached at home for interviews at (510) 845-4718. Photographs of Soto are available through UCR's office of University Relations at (909) 787-5183. For more information about Gary Soto, go to his Internet site at

Editor's Note: Susan Guevara will be appearing in Southern California at the following:
* Chaucer bookstore in Santa Barbara, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Aug. 25.
* Adventures For Kids in Ventura, 1:30-3 p.m. Aug. 25.
* Target Latino Book & Family Festival in Los Angeles, 2-3 p.m. Aug. 26.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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