Saturday, December 26, 2009

Looking for Newbery: Day 1: The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg

It's that time of year, when folks start making their predictions for the Newbery winners and Karen and I are no exceptions. Both of us got interested and started in this blog thing when we were asked by our friends at A Year of Reading to "guest blog" our picks three years ago and we've never looked back. Last year we took a big jump into the pool and did a month of reviews based on THE LIST over at Fuse #8 and called it "Looking for Newbery." We had so much fun we thought we would do it again. Karen chose me to kick it off, so here we go...WELCOME TO LOOKING FOR NEWBERY 2010!

Our first source of titles is the list over at Allen County Public Library. Honestly this the first internet Newbery prediction lists I found, and I still think it's one of the best. We divided up their list and were pleasantly surprised to find that between the two of us we have already read and/or blogged nearly half of the books on the list. One title I read a year ago that I'm a bit surprised and disappointed that I didn't write about it earlier is The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick.

Told in first person from the perspective of Homer, the historical fiction is set during the Civil War. Homer is a habitual liar and is capable of telling some real whoppers. He and his older brother Harry were orphaned at a young age and custody is given to a cruel uncle Squinton Leach (great name) who abuses them and makes them sleep in the barn. Homer's lies get him into trouble, but Harry is constantly protecting him and keeping the trouble from getting bigger than the two of them can handle.

Homer's world comes crashing down when the cruel uncle sells Harry into the Union Army even though he is not of age. When Harry leaves, Homer decides to follow him and get him out by proving that he's too young to be in the army. This is where the adventure begins. On his journey Homer meets up with some interesting characters. He is kidnapped, meets up with a Quaker who works on the Under Ground Railroad, joins a circus where he is billed as the Pig Boy, hucksters, swindlers, Civil War spies and other interesting characters.

In the end Homer and Harry meet up on the fields of Gettysburg where they take part in one of the most famous battle of the Civil War, Little Round Top.

I loved this book with it's mix of humor and history. Homer is a lovable character even though the reader knows throughout the book that he is a liar. Rodman Philbrick's writing is amazing. He brings the reader into the story from the start and doesn't let go until the end. His word selection and character development kept me reading and admiring his work from beginning to end.

Even though this book is on several lists, it came out in December, I hope it's not forgotten!

Other reviews at:
Fuse #8
Book Nut
Help Readers Love Reading!
Oops...Wrong Cookie (GREAT BLOG NAME!)


  1. Hi Bill,

    This sounds like a good one. I'm glad you and Karen are blogging about your picks. I'm going to try to read some of them to "ramp up" my repertoire of good reads for older elementary kids.

  2. I loved this book. It was one of my favorite books nominated for the Cyblis Middle Grade Fiction.

  3. I loved this one too! Read aloud to 4th grade last year and they begged me to keep reading every day. They have asked me to read it again now that they are in 5th grade. My principal even got into it and would "appear" at my door during the 4th grade period almost every day.