Monday, April 1, 2013


I admit, I was very pleasantly surprised by Bernina Moore’s unassuming book Gabriel. The book begins with a boy and his dad. While the boy cares for his father (Randy)—a victim of a stroke—the father asks to hold a toy truck. After our narrator gives his dad the truck, Randy talks about his childhood… and about his belief in angels.

As we revisit the past, we see Randy as a young boy, playing with the truck he now holds. Randy cherishes the toy truck, given to him by his father before he passed away, so when Bad Billy, a neighborhood bully, tries to steal it from him, Randy fights back. Unfortunately for Randy, the bully and his gang beat him pretty soundly. Fortunately, Randy is able to hold on to his precious truck. It’s at this point, after Bad Billy leaves, that Randy meets a stranger.

The stranger’s name is Gabriel, and Randy is mad at the boy for standing idly by while he got beaten. The conversation between the two is crisp and realistic:

“How long have you been standing there!’ I shouted.
“Long enough,” he replied.
“Why didn’t you help?’
“You had a good defense.”
“Balled up?”
“It worked.”
“My lip is busted!”
“It will heal.”
“My clothes are dirty!”
“Your clothes can be washed.”
“They took my cars!”
“You kept your truck.”

Gabriel’s responses—so straightforward and swift as to seem almost mysterious—intrigue Randy. When he comes across Gabriel the next day, he confronts him again, then engages him in play. The two hit it off and become friends. Again, their conversation is moves with the same quick-to-the-point fluidity.

“Are you coming back?”
“Maybe we can play with some of your toys tomorrow.”
“I don’t have any toys.”
“Then what do you play with?”
“I don’t.”

Moved to compassion, Randy gives Gabriel his toy truck. This puzzles Gabriel. He says, “A few days ago you took a beating for this.”

To which Randy replies, “A few days ago you weren’t my friend.”

As the story progresses, more mysteries surround Gabriel. His shadow seems distorted, as if he had wings. His home across the street is boarded up and empty, except for an older brother named Uriel. Gabriel and Uriel communicate in a language Randy doesn’t recognize. And Gabriel learns new things—like how to ride a bike—with remarkable ease.

Eventually Randy figures out that Gabriel is an angel. His angelic friend tries to explain what’s going on and takes Randy on some unbelievable trips. In the end, however, Randy discovers Gabriel’s real reason for moving in across the street: His mother is going to die.

Spoiler alert: Read no further if you do NOT want to know how the story ends!

Filled with anguish, Randy prays… and prays… and prays. God answers his prayers in a painful way. Randy suffers an injury dire enough to keep his mom home from work, which makes his mom miss dying in a four-car accident on the highway. After that, Gabriel returns Randy’s truck to him, telling him that he’s leaving. Here is another wonderful snippet of their conversation:

“Are you really leaving?”
“Will I see you again?”
“Will you look the same?”
“I’ll try.”
“If you don’t…how will I know it’s you?”
“I’ll make the truck ring.”

As the father finishes his tale about Gabriel, he smiles. Our narrator takes the truck from him and examines it. He presses the ringer, as he has many times before, expecting nothing to happen.

But to his surprise, it rings.

And the father dies.

What I Like: This dialogue in the story was well paced; it was some of the most enjoyable dialogue I’ve read in a children’s book. The story kept me engaged too. It was just the right length to satisfy my book appetite, but not too long to become tedious. Also, while there is much speculation about how an angel might look and behave and what role it might play on earth, the author did a nice job giving her fictional vision a realistic feel. The message is gentle and subtle; you will not find references to Scripture or Bibles stories, or even many references to God. Nonetheless, the story inspires a feeling of comfort and hope. This book is reasonably prices too!

What I Dislike: This is a minor point, but the book did contain a few punctuation errors and a mix up of the word “then” with “than”. These did not detract from the story.

Overall Rating: Excellent

Age Appeal: None is given. As a read aloud, the K-1 crowd might enjoy it (not read in one sitting). Otherwise, I'd go with 8-12.

Publisher Info: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012; ISBN: 978-1480121652; Paperback, 44 pgs., $4.50

This book is not available at
Buy it at for $4.50
OR Buy the Kindle version for ONLY $1.25!!!!

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