If you dont mind crying...
I read this book because I was intrigued by the mystery it seemed to hold. It holds more than that. It was on one of our sons' Christmas lists last year because he'd seen it on the Caudill Award Nominee list in 20100 for 2011.
This is a book about: fostering, adoption, pet fostering, death and life, trust, and facing your fears.
Gabe is used to being shuttled from foster home to foster home when a caring caseworker is finally able to locate his uncle who agrees to take him in. Death strikes unexpectedly and Gabe finds himself alone and unsure of what to do. When this happens he also finds a curious correspondence has begun between him and a stranger, via Uncle Vernon's mailbox.
This is a book written for juveniles but it explores some very mature themes. There is some discussion about a Vietnam vet who mistakenly fired upon a Vietnamese child who was firing on him. This tragedy haunted the vet who eventually fired upon himself due to the guilt for which he couldn't forgive himself...
This same veteran, though mentally unstable, reaches out to Gabe, via the mailbox, and the two become friends from afar. Each helps the other in his own way, to face a world without Vernon.
This story also portrays teachers, caseworkers, and law officials as being human beings with feelings and with the ability and need to reach out to others. In the end, the story line is nicely tidied up with everyone moving appropriately forward.
I strongly caution a pre-read by parents and teachers prior to allowing or encouraging children to read this book. While it is well-written and thought-provoking, in my opinion, it should probably only be read by kids ages 12 or 13 or older. And then only if they will not be tormented by a man shooting half his head off in an attempt to expunge himself of guilt... This story has its place but it isn't for everyone. It certainly isn't something I'd have chosen to read if I'd known the subject matter more fully. If our boys choose to read it I'll be glad I've already read it.