Published by Scholastic Press
Summary: “Little” Charlie Bobo (at age 12, he’s over six feet tall) believes the Bobo family has terrible luck. After his sharecropper father dies in a freak accident, Charlie and his mother are at the mercy of Cap’n Buck, the terrifying overseer from the nearby Tanner plantation. When the captain tells Charlie and his mother that they owe him fifty dollars, Charlie has no choice but to join him on a journey to repay their debt. He tells Charlie he’s in search of thieves who stole thousands of dollars nearly a decade ago; the “thieves” turn out to be fugitive slaves who escaped to Michigan. When Charlie and the captain reach Detroit, they track down the couple who escaped, but their son, also 12 years old, is at boarding school in Canada. Leaving the parents in jail, Charlie and Buck travel north, only to find that the attitude toward slave catchers is a bit different in Canada than in the U.S. Charlie returns to Detroit alone, and discovers that he can’t bring himself to carry out his original mission. He learns he has a kindness and courage that he’s never recognized before as he helps the family reunite in Buxton, Canada. 256 pages; grades 5-8.
Pros: Yet another masterpiece of historical fiction from Christopher Paul Curtis. Charlie is an uneducated narrator who doesn’t always trust his interpretation of events, but has enough heart to begin to question the adults around him and to do the right thing in the end.
Cons: Kids may need some guidance with the dialect and overt racism of Charlie’s world.