The Mailbox by Audrey Shafer, a first-time novelist, is 21 chapters and 178 pages that will touch your heart about a Vietnam vet, Vernon Culligan, who fought three times for his country and came home to live the remainder of his life as a recluse, dead to his community before he passed. It's a Sunshine State book. The main character, Gabe Culligan Pace, lost his mother at a tender age and after a series of foster homes that never worked, ended up living with his Uncle Vernon. This is a middle-school novel published by Yearling, an imprint of Random House. English, language arts, or reading teachers can teach figurative language, the flashback technique, and connections using the novel. Social studies or history teachers can teach about the Vietnam War's aftermath to vets and connections as well. It's a rich story for teaching caring and compassion for the elderly as well as those who gave their lives for our country.
How would you feel if you returned from school to find your uncle's body? Gabe loses his Uncle Vernon to a heart attack, and a secret stranger becomes a friend through mailbox notes. His uncle's body disappears, and a dog named Guppy is left. He comes home from school one day to find his uncle's body. The next day, the body is gone. Another day, he comes home and finds a large black dog that befriends him.
He has a special English teacher, and a best friend named Webber, whose mother bakes the best pies. He and Webber would love to be brothers. Gabe does his best living alone and writes an essay about his beloved uncle. The situations he encounters along his journey and the ending of this novel will melt hearts and make people think twice about how the men who fight for our freedom are treated upon their return. Smitty, Gabe's mailbox friend, has good reason to hide from the world. He served in Vietnam with Vernon, and though Gabe never meets him in person until the end of the book, he comes to care about him through note correspondence and realizes he's a true, valued friend.
Will Gabe have to return to a foster home when the police and child services discover he's living alone? His social worker Maria Rodriguez visits. What's going to happen to Gabe since his only living relative is gone? He's too young to live on his own, though he's been keeping the place tidy, paying bills, and taking care of Guppy, his treasured companion. ISBN: 978-0-440-42134-4, paperback, $6.50 US, $7.99 CAN.