Things aren't going well for Danny Malooley. His wife died a year ago in a car crash, and his eleven-year-old son, Will, who was with her when she died, hasn't spoken since. Not one word. Even though he's being bullied at school. And Danny doesn't know what to do to make him start talking again. Not only that, Danny is two months behind in the rent. And he just lost his job. And when no one else will hire him, he dons a cheap panda suit and starts dancing in the park in the hopes of making some money as a street performer. Though his plan would work better if he could actually dance. But it does give him a chance to rescue his son from a bully. And when Will speaks to him afterwards?! It's the best moment in the world. Too bad Will doesn't know it's his dad behind the panda mask. And Danny doesn't know how to tell him the truth.
This book is one of those quiet, character-driven novels that packs a punch. It's poignant, humorous and heartwarming all at once. Both Danny's and Will's struggles made me want to cry...and laugh. And I loved Danny's efforts to reconnect with his son. Even the secondary characters in this book are fun and memorable, from Danny's tough Ukrainian friend, Ivan, to Krystal, the wise-cracking, f-bomb dropping, pole dancer who helps him learn to dance. Like Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson and Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobsen this novel is a true gem, and one I'm so glad I happened upon.