Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg

Written by Rodman Philbrick
Most enjoyed by history fans in 5th through 8th grade

Homer P. Figg, little brother to Harold, is known to embellish his stories a bit. He'll need to really tell some whoppers if he's going to get his brother out of the Union Army. You see, Harold went a bit too far when trying to stop his uncle, Squinton Leach, from hurting Homer. Now, Squinton has conned a judge into enlisting Harold into the Union army despite the fact that Harold is too young. Homer watches in agony as his brother is taken away, vowing to leave that night to rescue Harold. But Harold's lead is too great and Homer must rely on the kindness of others to help his search. From a Quaker minister helping runaway slaves to a kind newspaperman who tells Homer the stark truth about war, Homer's search leads him to the front and Harold himself. But the happy ending Homer had hoped for comes with a price, one that he and Harold live with forever.

I really liked this book. The characters are well-drawn, the story's pacing fast enough to propel the reader onward. It didn't sugar-coat the brutality of the Civil War, yet it didn't make it so graphic that it might turn away the squeamish. It's an excellent work of historical fiction that well deserves the Newbery honor medal it received.

Our 6th grade book club just finished discussing 'Homer' and those that finished the book before our discussion enjoyed it. The students loved Homer's ability to get himself out of major trouble with his tall tales. The biggest complaint was not about the book but about the cover art work. Group members felt it didn't accurately portray the subject matter of the book and made the book look as if it were appropriate for a much younger audience. We hope that when the paperback version comes out, the cover is redesigned. But the group consensus was that 'The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg' is great historical fiction for junior high readers.

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