Early last evening I finished my third of the five books which were given Newbery Awards in January of 2010.
And so begins the story titled The mostly true adventures of Homer P. Figg. Homer and his older brother, Harold, are orphans living with a hateful relative, Squinton Leach, in the state of Maine. When that uncle's cruelty expands to a profitable ruse which finds Harold being lead off to war, Homer, escapes from the locked cellar to find his brother. From being kidnapped by ruthless slave hunters, to being saved by a wealthy Quaker abolitionist, to being tricked by a less than stellar traveling minister, to being a Pig Boy in a traveling medicine show and then finding himself right in the middle of the Battle of Gettysburg, Homer survives by his truly remarkable gift of gab. Certainly this tale is loaded with episodes that will have the reader grinning as they shake their heads but Philbrick, underneath it all, is revealing a world that can be cruel and tragic. The narrative has been well researched and includes some additional Civil War facts, opinions, slang & definitions, to be argued, debated & cogitated upon at the end.
I found myself liking this book not only for the humor and plot twists throughout but for the honest way that part of history was portrayed through its descriptive characters, their dialect and mannerisms and the sense of time and place that Philbrick created with his style of writing. Although not nearly as graphic and haunting as Paulsen's successful depiction of a true story in Soldier's Heart it is more than deserving of the Newbery honor.