When Dad Came Back.
Soto, Gary (author).
Sept. 2011. 152p. Univ. Press of New England, e-book, $7.99 (9781611682113). Grades 4-7.
"Available so far only in electronic format, Soto's newest slice-of-life novel centers on 13-year-old Gabe Mendoza's conflicted feelings when his father, an alcoholic who abandoned him and his mother four years ago, shows up again as a shambling, homeless wreck. Endowed with a broad streak of natural compassion but living in a seedy Fresno neighborhood rich in human predators, Gabe displays a ready generosity toward street people and others in need. But he also has the toughness to force a violent confrontation to get Frankie, a menacing gang member, off his case and later to sneak into Frankie's house to rescue a stolen pit bull pup. As Gabe sweats in the summer heat, roams shabby parks and streets, spends a week with a hardworking uncle, and talks about his father's return with his mother and others, his cold anger slowly melts and, after he finds his dad cleaned up and working in a store, even turns into a grudging acceptance with the reflection that "everyone needs a second--or third--chance." As usual for Soto, the setting is as vividly drawn as any of the characters, and there's an everyday quality to the incidents shaping the plotline that invites recognition and identification from readers."
-- John Peters Booklist.com