Pacific Crossing

Book: Pacific Crossing
Author: Gary Soto
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers, republished in 2003
ISBN-13: 978-1439517130 (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1439517134 (Hardcover)
ISBN-13: 978-0152046965 (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0152046968 (Paperback)
Language level: 3
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: For ages 8 – 12
Rating: *** 3 stars (FAIR)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Disclosure: Any books donated for review purposes are in turn donated to a library. No other compensation has been received for the reviews posted on Home School Book Review.
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Soto, Gary. Pacific Crossing (published in 1992 by Harcourt Brace and Company, 8th Floor, Orlando, FL 32887; republished in 1996 by Scholastic Inc., 555 Broadway, New York City, NY 10012). Fourteen-year-old Lincoln (Linc) Mendoza, a Franklin Junior High student of Mexican-American heritage who just finished seventh grade, lives with his mother in a Mission District barrio of San Francisco, CA. During the summer, Linc and his best friend, Tony Contreras, go to Japan for six weeks as exchange students, and Linc will study shorinji kempo, a Japanese martial art. The boys are staying in Atami, a small farming village about three hours outside Tokyo, Linc with Mr. and Mrs. Ono and their son Mitsuo who is Linc’s age, and Tony with the Inaba family. Linc and Mitsuo become like brothers. How will Lincoln’s kempo studies go? Will he learn anything about Japanese culture? And will he be able to explain to his new friends what it means to be both Mexican and American?

Though it moves along at a slow, leisurely pace with little excitement or adventure, except when Mr. Ono gets bitten by a spider on a camping trip and Lincoln must drive him down the mountain to a hospital, the book has an interesting plot which provides a lot of information about Japanese and Mexican-American culture. There are glossaries in the back which explain both Spanish and Japanese words and phrases. As usual in much modern youth literature, there has to be the requisite broken home. It is said that the marriage between Linc’s dad, a policeman, and mom ended in divorce when the boy was seven and that he hadn’t seen his dad in six years. Linc’s mom was thinking of marrying her boyfriend Roy. However, this is contrasted to the stability and affection between Mr. and Mrs. Ono in their marriage which Linc longingly notices. The boys do show some rebelliousness towards the police during their trip to Tokyo. A number of references to smoking cigarettes and cigars, as Mr. Ono is a smoker, and to drinking beer and sake occur.

Of course, the Onos are Buddhists, so mention is made of some Buddhist religious beliefs and practices. While they are not overemphasized, they are presented in a way that would make multiculturalists happy—they’re Buddhist, Linc is a Catholic, and everyone’s okay. At the same time, it is good to learn true respect and tolerance towards others with different beliefs. As to language, we do find out that “mis nalgas” means “my butt.” One other annoying event is found. When Linc and Mitsuo finally escape from the policemen chasing them in Tokyo, they turn around and yell, “Like h—.” It still amazes me that so many modern authors can write a basically nice story with no cursing or profanity for the most part, that while reading one begins to think that here is a book which can be recommended with hardly any reservations, but then right at the end they seem to feel that they just have to throw in some bad language, usually with the excuse that is it needed to make it sound “realistic.” Otherwise, I would have given this book a good rating instead of just fair.

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