This book by Gary Paulsen was written over thirty years ago, but is just as true-to-life as the present. The story takes place in Juarez, Mexico. Manny is one of a myriad of homeless nationals trying to make it across the border into the United States. Even though Manny is 14, he is small for his age, and half-starved, which makes him a prime target of “street wolves” – gangs that snatch homeless kids and sell them to pedophiles. Each day, Manny looks longingly at the bridge that separates Juarez, Mexico from El Paso, Texas. But he needs money before he can attempt to cross the border.
One night as he frantically runs from the wolves, he meets an American, Sgt. Robert Locke. Robert is psychologically damaged by his experiences in the Vietnam War, and memories of buddies who died beside him. He wishes he had died as well. To forget the horrors of the war, he has to stay constantly drunk when he is off-duty. Meeting Manny brings him back to the present, and the realization that he can help Manny.
This short novel is a good choice for anyone middle school age or older. It creates a picture in the reader’s mind of how dangerous it is to be homeless on the streets of Mexico, and the desperation of all who are trying to cross the border into a better life.