Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Mock Printz 2010: The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg

Title: The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg
Author: Rodman Philbrick
Publisher: Blue Sky Press
ISBN: 978-0439668187
Starred review in: BL


Homer P. Figg is a liar.

As he would tell you himself, “Telling the truth don’t come easy to me, but I will try”. This explains why his adventures are only “mostly” true. The story is set in the 1860’s. Homer and his brother Harold are orphans living in Pine Swamp, Maine under the dubious care of their uncle, Squinton (Squint) Leach. There is no love lost between the boys and their mean uncle Squint who works them hard and leaves them hungry. In fact, Homer is so hungry that he eats some food intended for the pigs, annoying Squint who tries to strike him. Harold defends Homer and an infuriated Squint sells Harold into the Union Army even though the teen is not yet eighteen.

By the time Homer manages to escape the farm Harold is long gone. He sets out to rescue his brother but doesn’t get very far before stumbling upon two bounty hunters searching for runaway slaves. Upon discovering Homer’s gift for stretching the truth they attempt to force Homer to aid them in their search and instead Homer finds himself an unwilling participant of sorts in the Underground Railroad.

From there Homer embarks on adventure upon adventure, each more outlandish than the one before. From a run in with some con artists, to a stint as the “Amazing Pig Boy” to a daring escape in a runaway hot air balloon, Homer experiences the fantastical. However, no matter the adventure the goal is always the same. Find big brother Harold and save him from the war.


This is a fast paced rollicking adventure that happens to be historical fiction. Even if it’s not a Printz contender it is a worthwhile read for those looking for a story with a likeable character you can’t help but root for just to see what trouble he can get into next. The character at twelve years old was also young and at times his personality seemed even younger. This may be a title more at home in juvenile collections than in young adult collections.
The humor comes in the form of Homer’s strong voice and his penchant for stretching the truth if he thinks it will suit him. Though it does have humor one never forgets that there are serious events happening in the story with the specter of the Civil War looming large in the background.
The author, Rodman Philbrick, doesn’t shy away from conveying the sights and sounds of war when Homer finds himself on the front lines amidst the wounded and the dying. Because Homer’s voice is strong we are able to experience, through him, his horror at what is happening around him and his fear that his brother may be among the fallen.
Homer is a refreshing character in that he is an unabashed storyteller and that is just who he is. There is no grand change where he decides to only tell the truth and despite what he experiences and sees he doesn’t necessarily have a stand on the war.
All he knows and all he cares about is that he wants to be reunited with his big brother and the reader will want this too.

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