Eleven affectionate glimpses of young people, most of them Hispanic, amid the trials and triumphs of daily life in their California neighborhoods. Coping with small adversities is the common theme here. Veronica's cherished new Barbie doll has lost its head, but she lovingly carries it to bed anyway. Alfonso nervously prepares to go riding with a girl and his bike chain breaks. As Manuel is lip-synching ""La Bamba"" for the talent show, the record sticks. In the title story, Michael and his younger brother Jesse find an alternative when they fail--again--to make Little League. Lupe's shyness melts when she discovers that she can beat anyone, girl or boy, at marbles. Though some of these episodes seem to trail off, their humor is unforced, and the characters (ranging from middle-graders to adults) are drawn with realism and sympathy. Soto salts the natural-sounding dialogue with Spanish words and phrases (a vocabulary list is given at the end), and binds the stories together with webs of close family ties.