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Finding Stinko by Michael de Guzman
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Finding Stinko

by Michael de Guzman

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After a series of living in foster homes all his life, Newboy is determined to make his current escape from the system permanent. On the streets, he discovers a battered ventriloquist's dummy which he uses to speak (at age 9, Newboy stopped talking). Newboy finds a family of sorts with other homeless kids. It's all about finding where one belongs. Life on the streets is tough (there are scenes of beating and force) but considering the target age for this book, there is no raw language, and nothing too brutal or beyond age development. It could be a book that saves someone. ( )
  Salsabrarian | Feb 2, 2016 |
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. ( )
  GeniusJen | Oct 10, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374323054, Hardcover)

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.
 
This is a fast-paced adventure about a runaway kid figuring out not just what he’s searching for but also what he has to say.
 
Finding Stinko is a 2008 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:12 -0400)

Having spent his life trying to escape the foster care system, eventually becoming mute to keep out of trouble, twelve-year-old Newboy finally hits the streets, where a discarded ventriloquist's dummy gives him back his voice and his hope.

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