Newboy hasn't spoken in three years. One morning he opened his mouth and nothing came out. He doesn't know why he stopped talking, but what he does know is that he's through with the state child-care system. In twelve years he's lived in eleven foster homes, and the Knoxes are the worst of the bunch. Now, with no voice, no family, and no exact plan, Newboy is running away for good. Living on the streets means danger and excitement around every corner, but the one thing Newboy never expected to find is a companion in the form of an old ventriloquist dummy lying in a Dumpster--a puppet with no hands, backward feet, and a chunk of its nose missing. Amazingly, this beat-up doll whom he dubs "Stinko" possesses a kind of magic that helps Newboy rediscover his ability to communicate.
Reviewed by Grandma Bev for TeensReadToo.com
A destitute teen mother abandons her infant in an apartment building, leaving a note with him, printed in childish block letters. "His name is Newboy. He is one week old. Please take care of him. I can't."
By the time Newboy is twelve years old he has stopped talking, and after a series of uncaring foster homes, he is sent to the worst one yet. Medical examinations and testing do not reveal a cause for his silence, but for Newboy, life is just easier that way. The Knoxes keep their flock of foster children on a very rigid schedule and all Newboy can think about is escaping to a freedom that he imagines will be much better.
When he does escape, he takes refuge in a garbage bin where he finds a foul-smelling and damaged ventriloquist's dummy. He names the doll "Stinko." Newboy is able to talk through the dummy and express himself for the first time in several years. Newboy meets other runaways like himself living on the dangerous streets and they form alliances that help them survive. Mr. and Mrs. Knox are relentlessly searching for him...after all, the State pays them for his care.
This is a touching story of hardship, survival, and the friendships of children struggling against nearly insurmountable odds. Newboy's innate sense of right and wrong and his moral values remain intact in spite of his troubles and the young hoodlums that confront him.
de Guzman keeps the tempo fast-paced and exciting, with a cast of wonderful, compelling characters, as Newboy dodges his foster parents and young thugs that mean him harm and races toward a satisfying climax. I highly recommend this book...the short length and rapid pace will make it especially attractive to reluctant readers.