When The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg received a 2010 Newbery Honor Award, I added it to the stack on my bedside table. Based on the glowing reviews prior to its recognition by the Newbery Committee, I purchased it for Inly’s Library, but only got a chance to read it over the past few days. I read it just in time. Just in time to press it into the hands of kids before summer vacation and tell them to move it to the #1 position on their own reading lists. This is a book with heart. It’s funny and smart and moving and adventurous, and I hope Rodman Philbrick will continue Homer’s adventures in another story.
The book felt old fashioned in a way. Homer P. Figg would be terrific friends with Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. The premise of the story is that Homer, a twelve-year-old orphan living in Swamp Pine, Maine, goes on a journey to find his brother, Harold. It’s 1863, and Harold has been sent (under false pretenses) to the Civil War battlefields. That doesn’t stop Homer who, through a series of adventures, eventually finds his brother. Along the way, there are funny scenes and thought provoking passages. One of the many joys of the book are the names of the supporting characters: Squinton Leach, Stink Mullins, Professor Fleabottom, and the good Quaker abolitionist, Jebediah Brewster.
One note: I would not recommend this book for children younger than 10 or 11. The battlefield scenes portray war as it is. That being said, this is a terrific book for kids who like history. Philbrick weaves interesting information into his action-packed and engaging story.