Cover image for The reappearance of Sam Webber
The reappearance of Sam Webber
Fuqua, Jonathon Scott.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Baltimore, MD : Bancroft Press, [1998]

Physical Description:
237 pages ; 24 cm
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.6 14.0 35030.
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



When eleven-year-old Sam Webber's father disappears without a trace, he and his mother are forced to relocate to a tough neighborhood, closer to her job. Unfamiliar with his surroundings and intimidated by the students of his new school, Sam recounts the sometimes frightening, sometimes delightful details of his life with touching, humorous sincerity. Living in a tiny apartment, he is forced to deal with the legacy of depression that marked his father, and threatens to envelop him. The city remains a cold and unwelcoming place to Sam until he meets Greely, an elderly black janitor at his junior high. Through this unlikely friendship, Sam begins to heal, as well as confront the racism that surrounds his community, and his life. Tracing a year in the life of an exceptional young boy, newcomer Jonathon Scott Fuqua leaves an impression that endures like a watermark. A masterfully written novel full of beautifully drawn, unforgettable characters, The Reappearance of Sam Webber is only the first from a top writer whose talented storytelling will touch every reader.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Eleven-year-old Sam Webber's father has disappeared. Left with little money and no clue as to where his father went, Sam and his mother are forced to move into a small, leaking apartment in a low-income Baltimore neighborhood. Armed with only a nervous stomach, Sam struggles to adjust to his new life. The cold uninviting school, the bully out for revenge, and his mother's new boyfriend all make Sam anxious and worried. The bright spot in Sam's life is Greely, the school janitor. Sharing football in the park and lunches in the school cafeteria, their relationship fills a void in Sam's life. As their friendship develops, it also becomes obvious that Greely needs Sam as much as Sam needs Greely. It is a secret of Greely's that, once revealed, helps Sam come to terms with his father's leaving. This is a slow-paced story, filled with expertly detailed descriptions of Baltimore and well-drawn characters. --Carolyn Kubisz

Publisher's Weekly Review

A white 11-year-old becomes fast friends with a black school janitor and learns about racism, loss, grief, forgiveness and the landscape of Baltimore in this heartfelt but simplistic debut novel, the first work of fiction from Bancroft Press. Narrator Sam Webber was shy and fearful even before his depressed father disappeared; now Sam lives near the poverty line with his mother, who works in a flower shop. At a low point in his life, Sam is taken under the wing of the kindly, wise school janitor. African-American WWII veteran Greely Clemons offers Sam fatherly advice and reels off stories about his own experiences. Sam's friendship with Greely sensitizes the boy to racial bigotry spouted by his mother's drawling boss, Ditch Gordon, and the class bully, fat, ugly Newt Novacek. Sam finds another father-surrogate in his mother's new boyfriend, but his leap toward emotional maturity comes when Greely, in the hospital recovering from a heart attack, confesses that he too walked out on his wife and kids back in Atlanta. Shaken, Sam finally realizes that the father he idolized may never return. Fuqua, who has written children's nonfiction (B&O: America's Railroad), seems to have envisioned this earnest tale as part tract on teenage depression and part coming-of-age novel. He has a sensitive understanding of the shaky emotional terrain of preadolescence, and he displays a good ear for dialogue and an intimate feel for Baltimore's rowhouses, creaky buses and broad sidewalks. Though teenagers may find Sam's story inspiring, adult readers may find it predictable and didactic. Agent, Robbie Hare. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This debut novel follows the life of a contemporary 11-year-old white boy named Sam Webber whose father, suffering from depression, abandons Sam and his mother. They are forced to move into a small apartment in the rundown Baltimore neighborhood of Charles Village. At school, Sam is bullied because of his small size and isolated because of his good grades. Eventually, he befriends a black janitor named Greely, who teaches Sam to face his fears. After Sam and his mother are mugged and neighbors come to their aid, Sam learns that there are "too many good people in the world to let the bad ones set you off." Fuqua addresses prejudice and overcoming urban fears from a child's perspective. The characters present a realistic picture of the trials in a single-parent family and display the essential values of an extended family of neighbors. Highly recommended not only for adults and educators but for teenagers living in urban areas.‘David A. Beronä, Univ. of New England, Biddleford, ME (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

YA-In a style somewhat reminiscent of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird or Olive Ann Burns's Cold Sassy Tree, a slightly older Sam relates the events of a watershed year in his life. In the summer after his 11th birthday, Sam's father disappeared. Although the boy's mother soon realizes that her husband has abandoned them, Samuel clings to the belief that his father was kidnapped and involuntarily remains apart from them. Facing reduced circumstances, the Webbers move to an impoverished area in Baltimore. A rough neighborhood, a dwelling with an inner waterfall during rainstorms, and a school bully are only some of the new experiences in store for the boy. Sam is a realistic, vivid character. He anxiously waits out his mother's grief-provoked depression and begins facing his new life. He is prone to hyperventilating when faced with stress or anxiety, a trait that usually results in a dead faint or a bout of vomiting. He has trouble relating to other kids and he is often frightened, confused, and lonely. He learns, however, that family doesn't have to be composed of blood relatives, that love comes in various colors and sizes, and that what seems to be the worst of circumstances can actually turn out to be a blessing. With so many young adults facing family breakups personally or through their friends, this delightful and captivating story will be a welcome glimmer of hope.-Carol De-Angelo, Kings Park Library, Burke, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

My father, Big Sam Webber, disappeared the summer I was eleven years old.
No one knows what happened to him for sure, if he was murdered, kidnapped, forgot who he was or just decided to run and never look back.
When he was first gone, I hoped for murder or amnesia.
I didn't want to believe that he would choose to leave.
But the evidence always pointed to flight, that he gave up on my mom and me.
The police found his rusted old car at Dulles International Airport, down in Washington, D.C.
It was in hourly parking and had rung up a giant bill over a two-week period, an amount that would've left me and my mother broke if we'd had to pay it.
Luckily, we didn't.
The police got it out, towed it somewhere, and blew dust all over it for fingerprints.
Big Sam's were the only ones found on the worn steering wheel and scratched door handle.
Kidnapping wasn't ruled out of the picture, mostly, I think, for my sake.
He was what the police call a missing person, and he still is.
About a month after he disappeared, a pretty black police officer came by our house.
She had a soothing smile and a gentle voice that whooshed out of her mouth like a scoop of sand.
She asked me questions about my father.
She wondered if Big Sam had ever mentioned leaving, if I'd ever gone to the track with him, seen him place a bet on something.
Had I ever heard anyone threaten him, or did he sometimes seem lost? I'd seen a little of all of those things, but nothing big enough to catch her attention.
The thing is, remembering back to normal times made me feel horrible.
And when we were done, she took me in her arms, held me against her so that my forehead scraped red on her shiny silver badge.
"It's going to be okay," she promised me, as if she could see into the future.
Just a few months later, I found out she couldn't.
When the savings were all used up, my mother sold the car.
Then a couple of weeks after that, we started looking around for a cheaper place to live, somewhere closer to her job.
We eyeballed a neighborhood called Charles Village, a few blocks off Baltimore's main north-south drags, Charles and St.
Paul Streets, beside the best bus routes in the city and not too far from the Rotunda, a fancy shopping center with a Giant Supermarket crammed on the side.
Other not-so-okay things happened, too, like the way my name changed.
Before my dad left, everyone, including my mother, had called me Little Sam.
Together, my father and I were Big and Little Sam Webber, like I was a small part of him and he was a larger part of me.
But when he'd been gone for a while, my mom suddenly started calling me Samuel.
I think the name Little Sam reminded her that there had been a big one out there somewhere, and remembering that turned her into a wreck.
So I tried not to get too upset over the change, but it bothered me.
The part of me I had always liked the best was suddenly the very worst portion of all.
Still, for my mom's sake, I got used to it as fast as I could.
Everyone calls me Samuel or Sam now.
I wouldn't know what to say if someone called me Little Sam again.
When my father was still around, he was a Baltimore Gas & Electric employee, one of those guys who looks for weird-smelling fumes.
He'd driven a car back and forth across the city all day, a little dusty-blue sedan, shoe-box shaped, with a bright BG&E logo painted on both front doors.
It was a mess inside.
It always had coffee and soda cups rolling around and crushed under the seats, plus greasy yellow McDonald's cheeseburger wrappers floating about.
He loved that kind of food.
My mom used to say that if he could have his way, he'd eat every meal at a fast-food restaurant, which didn't seem like such a bad idea to me.
Starting when I went into the first grade, my dad always tried to pick me up from school.
No matter what his day was like, he'd swing by in the afternoons to get me and chauffeur me home.
He worried that I was too shy, too small, and that bigger kids would pick on me if I was stuck taking the bus.
He was right in most ways, too.
I was shy, practically a runt, and oftentimes bigger guys tried to push me around.
Even still, I knew I could do okay.
But my dad never was convinced.
See, he had been a huge kid.
I've seen pictures of him, and his arms bulged like rubbery car bumpers.
Being tough, he'd picked on runts like me when he was in school.
He knew how cruel bullies could be, and he worried.
The truth is, my dad worried way more than normal.
He suffered horrible headaches that his doctor said were caused by grinding his long flat teeth together.
He chewed his cuticles raw, and cracked his knuckles about a thousand times a day.
His worrying wasn't just for me, either; he worried about my mother, too.
During the cold months, he didn't like her waiting in the dark for rickety crosstown buses.
They didn't come by nearly as frequently as the ones rolling up and down Charles and St.
Paul Streets, and he thought that she was vulnerable to something bad, standing along the side of the road as she did.
So even though he was usually exhausted and sad in the winter, he picked her up at Junie's Florist, drove her home, then went downtown to drop off his work car.
On the days he was feeling good enough, I begged to go with him, because it was nearly a perfect trip.
Shimmering McDonald's cheeseburger wrappers swirled about us-bright, wrinkly birds-while colorful paper cups stamped with flashy lettering slipped and rolled beneath our shifting feet.
And together, amid all that movement, we scampered into the magical city-buildings lit, Baltimore's skyline sparkling like a forest of Christmas trees, helicopters and jetliners streaking above.

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