THE MOSTLY TRUE ADVENTURES OF HOMER P. FIGG, by RODMAN PHILBRICK
What’s a twelve-year-old boy to do if his brother is illegally sold into the Union Army and he’s left to rot in his uncle’s barn and get less to eat than the hogs on this Maine farm?
Why, set out after him and prove to the authorities that his brother’s only 17 years old. And that’s what Homer P. Figg does. He begins by taking the old horse that he and his brother had inherited from their parents. Soon that horse is stolen from him by a couple of rascals who stink worse than any pigs Homer has ever known.
The stinkers force him to lie to the kindly Quaker man who helps run-away slaves get to the Canada border. But together, Homer and the kindly Quaker foil the stinkers’ plot and Homer sets out with a naïve budding preacher with money to retrieve Harold, Homer’s brother.
Then the naïve preacher is fooled into giving the money to a con man and his sister, who send Homer down the river in a pig crate (with the pigs).
Without any money, Homer is taken in by another con artist, a “Professor” who sells “elixir,” i.e., strong spirits at his travelling medicine show. Homer is billed as the “pig boy,” half boy and half pig—and it’s pretty convincing because of his smell and the pig tale that’s sticking out of the back of his trousers. Then the “Professor” is apprehended as a Confederate spy.
How Homer escapes from the authorities by getting away in an Army surveillance balloon is one of the most exciting of his adventures.
By chance, Homer lands near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the day before the battle in which his brother faces enemy fire. But it’s Homer’s accidental wounding of Harold that takes Harold out of the battle. Of course, it’s Homer who picks up the Union Flag and soldiers on!
The young readers will see the Civil War from aloft as they sail along with Homer in the hot-air balloon. Though they cannot escape the cries of the wounded, they will laugh at Homer’s “mostly true” tall tales and cheer his determination.
I listened to this story on audio tapes from my public library. The book was published by Random House, Inc. in 2009, and the suggested audience age is 8 and up. As an adult, I thoroughly enjoyed it.