Does Rivers have room in his life for two very different fathers?
"The truth is Uncle Daddy isn't either my father or my uncle. He's actually Mom's uncle. I was three years old when he came to live with us."
Since Rivers's real father left him and his mom six years ago, Uncle Daddy has been taking care of Rivers in all the ways a dad cares for a son -- even teaching him how to play baseball. Then his real father returns. Rivers is confused and angry. He had always thought that he'd express his anger at his father by socking him in the stomach. Now, face to face with him, Rivers' feelings are more complicated than he'd imagined. Will the reappearance of his dad affect his relationship with Uncle Daddy? This heart-felt story, told from the point of view of a nine-and-a-half-year-old boy, is filled with insight and touches of humor.
When his long-absent father suddenly reappears, nine-year-old Rivers struggles with conflicting feelings and re-examines his relationship with the great-uncle who had served as his father.
Nine-year old Rivers was raised by his mother and his great uncle (Uncle Daddy), his father having left him when Rivers was only three. Uncle Daddy is an elementary school principal who teaches Rivers to play baseball, and lets Rivers and his friends have the run of the school to celebrate Rivers' "unbirthday." Uncle Daddy is portrayed as the almost "perfect" father; however, life for Rivers, his mother, and Uncle Daddy changes when Rivers' biological father re-appears after a six-year absence. Rivers is unsure whether he can trust his biological father and feels torn. How can anyone trust someone who goes out for pizza one night, and doesn't come back? Still, Rivers' father is patient, and slowly earns Rivers' trust. When Uncle Daddy experiences a near-fatal heart attack, Rivers and his mother accept the aid of Rivers' biological father in remodeling living quarters for Uncle Daddy. Though some may argue the ending is a bit too idealistic, the story moves fast, and may appeal to many slow readers. 2001, Henry Holt & Company, 133 pp., Cole
What happens when your father disappears one day and shows up just as suddenly six years later? Rivers is not sure, but one reaction is anger and hitting his father in the stomach. Rivers is a typical fourth grader who lives with his mother and great uncle, whom he calls Uncle Daddy. Uncle Daddy is an Elementary School Principal and lets Rivers and four friends have the run of the school to celebrate Rivers "un-birthday" on June 25 (his real birthday is December 25). They run and yell in the halls, play in the gym, ring the bell and make announcements—the wishes of every school child. Rivers must still deal with his father, and how do you trust someone who said he was going out for pizza and never came home? Rivers' father is very patient and slowly wins himself back into the family. This is a wonderful story of love, patience, tolerance and acceptance. The characters are believable, even with the fairy tale ending, but the story may leave many children hopelessly wishing for their parents to reunite. 2001, Henry Holt, $15.95. Ages 8 to 11. Reviewer: Janet L. Rose
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-A reassuring picture of forgiveness and acceptance within a family. Rivers has been raised by his mother and great-uncle, "Uncle Daddy," ever since his father went out to get a pizza and never came back. The boy's life is fairly typical of that of other nine-year-olds-until his father returns after a six-year absence. Then, anger, resentment, confusion, insecurity, and torn loyalties threaten to overwhelm the family. When Uncle Daddy suffers a near-fatal heart attack, Rivers and his parents come together in support and concern and the older man's physical healing parallels the relatives' emotional healing. The one-big-happy-family conclusion may come about a bit too quickly to be completely convincing, but youngsters will welcome it. While Uncle Daddy seems too good to be true, Rivers's parents are more multidimensional characters and the child's interactions with friends and his conflicted emotions concerning his father are portrayed realistically. This is not a first purchase, but it will appeal to readers who want an alternative to the grim realism of much contemporary fiction.-Heide Piehler, Shorewood Public Library, WI Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
When Rivers was three, his father went out to get a pizza and never returned. Now in fourth grade, Rivers does a lot of fantasizing about what he'd do if his father came back—"I'd wind up and sock him as hard as I could, right in the stomach." But when his fantasy becomes a reality, the situation stirs up far more ambiguous and confusing emotions than Rivers had anticipated. Since his father's disappearance, his too-good-to-be-alive great uncle (whom he calls Uncle Daddy) has filled the role of dad in Rivers's household. Despite the protagonist's amusingly rendered, emotionally justified anger toward his biological father, it's clear to the reader that Rivers does want to have a relationship with him, but is afraid this relationship will impinge upon the emotional connection he has with Uncle Daddy. Unwilling to trust the small, telling details of this tender tale, Fletcher conjures up a dramatic incident: Uncle Daddy suffers a near-fatal heart attack. This predictably forces River and his mother to depend on Rivers's biological father, whose expertise in the building trades—he helps build Uncle Daddy a downstairs bedroom so that the family won't have to constantly navigate the stairs—not only saves the day but shows off his newfound sense of responsibility as well. Despite this obvious gimmick, Fletcher is often insightful and his protagonist funny and winning. In this age of step and other nontraditional family groupings, the story should reassure youngsters that it's okay to love two father figures at the same time. (Fiction. 8-11)
Ralph Fletcher is the author of many highly-acclaimed books-from picture books, the illustrated chapter book Tommy Trouble and the Magic Marble, to poetry collections for teenagers and writing instruction guides for teachers. His previous novels for middle-grade readers include Flying Solo, Spider Boy and Fig Pudding. Ralph lives with his family in New Hampshire.