Rodman Philbrick has written an adventure tale that is equal parts amusing, exciting, and frightening.
12-year-old Homer P. Figg is a consummate liar that doesn’t see the point of honesty when lying serves a better purpose. His 17-year old brother Harold has been conscripted into the Union Army in the thick of the Civil War. Harold has been Homer’s protector since their parents died and they were sent to live with their cruel uncle. Homer is determined not to his big brother.
So Homer runs away to find Harold and get him out of the army before Harold gets killed. On his adventure, Homer is snatched by slave bounty hunters, finds refuge with a kindly rich Quaker, travels by steamship to the great city of New York and hooks up with a traveling medicine show. He finally finds his brother at Gettysburg, just hours before the big battle begins.
Seriously, this is one of the most fun historic fiction books I’ve ever read. Philbrick has channeled Mark Twain to interject the right amount of humor and ridiculousness into a very serious war story. It’s certainly not all fun, but the Homer’s view of the world and his propensity for lying add comedy to scenes that would otherwise be very somber. A perfect blend for middle grade readers. Even with all of its humor, this book is an historic novel with accurate civil war history with a glossary of civil war terms. It would be a great addition to any classroom library. Released in 2009, this was a Newberry Honor book.
After reading Homer P. Figg, I’m definitely adding Philbrick’s Freak The Mighty to my To-Be-Read list.