THE MOSTLY TRUE ADVENTURES OF HOMER P. FIGG, by Rodman Philbrick, Blue Sky Press/Scholastic, New York, 2009, hardcover, 224 pages, $16.99.
In this whimsical young-adult novel, award-winning author Rodman Philbrick, a part-time Kittery resident, has created a character who compares favorably with Mark Twain’s more famous rascals, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.
Set during the Civil War, the book focuses on 14-year-old Homer Figg. Homer isn’t a bad sort, really. He just has a tendency to embellish while telling tales.
Homer and his older brother, Harold, are orphans living in Pine Swamp, Maine, in the dubious care of their mean-spirited uncle, Squinton Leach.
One day, mild-mannered Harold defends Homer and flattens Squint, and the uncle responds by selling the 17-year-old Harold into the Union Army.
This is the event that sparks Homer’s colorful adventures, as he runs away to the world beyond Pine Swamp in hopes of tracking down Harold and undoing his illegal recruitment.
Homer’s travels take him through the backdrop of the Civil War, including the Underground Railroad, Confederate spies, a runaway balloon and finally the critical battle at Gettysburg. He comes face to face with such historical figures as Confederate Gen. Jeb Stuart and Maine’s own Joshua Chamberlain.
Philbrick has developed an enchanting original in Homer P. Figg. Who knows what further mostly true adventures Homer still may have?