Reviews for Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg

Booklist Reviews 2009 January #1
After his older brother Harold is forced to join the Union Army, Homer runs away from their wicked uncle s farm to save him. His southward journey divides easily into episodic adventures: outwitting two slave-hunting scoundrels with the help of a wealthy abolitionist; traveling south with an easily duped young clergyman; joining a medicine show led by a mysterious man; fleeing in a hot-air balloon with a disastrous flaw; and arriving at Gettysburg in time for the battle. If these adventures seem a little too colorful to be quite believable, first-person narrator Homer begins his tale by saying, the truth don t come easy to me. The narrator s humor and folksy charm bubbles to the surface from time to time, despite a streak of cruelty that runs straight through the story, from the farm to the battlefield. Notes on the period and a glossary are appended. This eventful, episodic novel is accessible to a younger audience than many others set during the Civil War.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2009 #1
In Pine Swamp, Maine, in the 1860s, young Homer P. Figg is a prodigious liar -- this gets him into trouble as often as it gets him out of it, but serves him well as an entertaining storyteller. While his voice is laced with humor, his situation isn't. Homer and his older brother Harold's guardian is Squinton Leach -- just about the meanest man in Maine (though "there was a meaner man in Bangor once, that poisoned cats for fun"). When Squint enlists Harold, seventeen but still underage, to stand in for him in the Union Army against his will, Homer decides to set off after Harold and stop this crime of conscription. Whip-smart, Homer knows how to deal with all manner of humanity he encounters on his quest: fugitive slave hunters, a beautiful grifter, and a Confederate spy. But he doesn't know how to deal with Harold when he finds him at Gettysburg on the eve of that bloody battle, except to join him in the fighting. Homer's facile narration, and a little laying waste of the truth here and there, moves the plot quickly and creates a captivating read. Still, Homer never obscures the misfortunes of war and those who fought it. Copyright 2009 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2008 December #1
Shortly after this lively comic yarn opens, Homer, a half-starved orphan boy who lives in rural Maine with his mean-spirited uncle and 17-year-old brother Harold, helplessly watches as Harold is sworn into the Union Army. After finding out that their avaricious uncle sold his underage nephew to substitute for a richer neighbor in the Civil War, 12-year-old Homer takes off on a rescue mission. On the way, Homer is kidnapped by some nefarious slave-catchers, joins a traveling medicine show and holds up the Union colors during the Battle of Gettysburg. Bursting with vividly voiced characters and descriptions so crisp they practically crunch, the story is trenchantly narrated in the first person by Homer, a resourceful, sharp-witted child who is never without a lie in his pocket. Despite the overall comic tone, Philbrick makes serious points about the evil of slavery, the horrors of war, inexplicable bravery, ethical decision-making and the need to move forward in one's life. (Historical fiction. 9-12) Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2008 November #4

Philbrick (Freak the Mighty) offers rip-roaring adventure in this Civil War-era novel featuring a mistreated orphan who doesn't let truth stand in the way of spinning a good yarn. When his guardian, Uncle Squinton--"the meanest man in the entire state of Maine"--sells off Homer P. Figg's older brother, Harold, to take a rich man's son's place in the Union army, Homer can't just stand around doing nothing. Determined to alert the authorities (and his brother) that Harold is too young to be a soldier, the plucky narrator traces the path of the regiment. He faces many dangers, including "an abduction or two, and being robbed and thrown in with the pigs, and joining the Caravan of Miracles" before landing smack in the middle of the Battle of Gettysburg, where he reunites with his brother and more or less drives the Confederates away. The book wouldn't be nearly as much fun without Homer's tall tales, but there are serious moments, too, and the horror of war and injustice of slavery ring clearly above the din of playful exaggerations. Ages 9-12. (Jan.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2009 January

Gr 5-8--When his older brother gets conscripted into the Union Army, Homer runs away from his uncle, "the meanest man in the entire state of Maine." He sets out after Harold but has multiple misadventures along the way. He survives thanks to courage, luck, and his talent for telling lies when needed, since "old Truth ain't nearly as useful as a fib sometimes." Homer relates his own adventures in colorful language as he crosses paths with con men, rogues, and scoundrels of various types. The comic tone is reflected in character names, such as Stink and Smelt, the cold-blooded slave catchers, and the kind but shifty Professor Fleabottom. Things take a more somber tone when Homer sees the horrors of the battlefield up close. The final reunion of the brothers during the Battle of Gettysburg is bittersweet. Homer's escapades introduce some interesting features of the year 1863, including the Underground Railroad, a traveling medicine show, Civil War spies, and an early version of the hydrogen balloon. Homer runs into plenty of danger, but there's more comedy than suspense in most episodes. He also deals with some moral dilemmas as he tries to make sense of the wide world and find people and ideas to believe in. The engaging protagonist and mixture of humor and adventure make this a strong choice for fans of Sid Fleischman's tales.--Steven Engelfried, Multnomah County Library, OR

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