Last year’s reading list includes a category labeled, “Books I Thought I’d Hate But Ended Up Loving.” Of the two novels listed, one is Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels, an absolutely stunning tale of Gettysburg. As a rule, I dislike war-books. But in this case, I went around for weeks trying to force the CDs on the rest of my family. It’s just the sort of story my ten-year-old brother would have loved—but for a certain soldier’s bad Anglo-Saxon.
Enter The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg. Homer is Killer Angels for kids.
Although he is underage, Homer P. Figg’s beloved older brother, Harold, is illegally sold into the Union Army by their ruthless guardian. Now Homer must run away from Pine Swamp, Maine, and his wretched home to find his brother and save him from the war, before it’s too late.
I just loved this story. The characters are vivid, the high jinks are … high, and the history is completely engaging. I must admit, I was wary of the name Rodman Philbrick. One of my violin students is a Werewolf Chronicles zombie-fan, and I get a wee bit tired of hearing about the amazing, stupendous Philbrick. But Homer Figg’s humor and prose are without spot or wrinkle.
“Things Uncle Hates … Hates Southerners, because they own slaves. Hates Negroes, because they complain of being enslaved.”
“Harold is so true and brave and fearless that he’s bound to get himself killed.”
“This isn’t fair,” Mrs. Bean admonishes him, shaking her gravy ladle. “He’s just a boy, and a scrawny one at that!” “I know,” says Mr. Brewster, sounding regretful. “But boys are fighting this cruel war. Boys are enslaved, and boys own slaves. None may escape. All must decide.”
“But it is a big war. How will I know him?” “Looks a lot like you, except Harold is slightly taller and stronger and better looking.”
I’ve officially started my Top Ten of 2009, and The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg is right up front.