The story of Miracle's Boys is told by 12-year-old Lafayette Bailey, the youngest of three brothers living in New York City. They are orphans, living under the care of the oldest brother, Ty'ree, 22, a whiz kid who was forced to give up on his dream of attending MIT so he could work full time and keep his family together. The boys' diabetic mother, Milagro (Miracle), died of insulin shock two years ago, and their father died before Lafayette was born, succumbing to hypothermia after his heroic rescue of a woman and a dog from a frozen lake. The middle brother, Charlie, 15, has been away at the Rahway Home for Boys for the past two years, serving a sentence for armed robbery. But now that Charlie's back home, it's all too clear to Lafayette that things will never be the same.
Charlie isn't the same tenderhearted and caring boy he used to be. Newcharlie, as Lafayette now calls him, is changed: bitter, angry, and mean. It's bad enough that the boys are struggling to survive against crushing poverty, oppressive grief, and the ever-present threat of gang violence. Newcharlie's penchant for finding trouble may prove to be a fatal chink in their already rusted armor, leading to a breakup that would send Lafayette and Charlie off to foster homes. In addition, each of the boys is toting a ton of emotional baggage: a collection of guilty secrets, private demons, and mind-numbing fears. Their journey out of the darkness is a step-by-step process toward an uncertain future, and the only thing helping them along is their hope, their dreams, and their love for one another -- "brother to brother to brother."
Woodson's talent for peeling away emotional layers and exposing the raw, unadulterated truth is both riveting and refreshing. Young readers should delight in the moving but funny voice of Lafayette as he deals with his grief, anger, and sense of alienation. And the story's gritty prose and complex characters provide a level of clarity and commonality that should speak well to readers from age nine on up.