It is 1845 as this engaging young adult novel by Thom Rodgers opens with a scene too familiar to both children and adults. Bullying has always been a problem and for young Toby the morning conflict is with an older boy known to terrorize the other kids that work in the area shops. He isn't about to let the older boy steal his pocket knife--- the same pocket knife his father gave him. Using a bull whip for maximum effectiveness, Toby manages to get his pocket knife back as well as teach the older boy a lesson he will never forget.
At age 14, Toby has experienced a lot and is supporting the family by working as an apprentice to Abe in a local workshop. They are almost finished making a large whiskey still Toby's main job has been to get inside the still and hold the buck hammer against the rivets while Abe pounds them into place from the outside. It is noisy work but Toby is glad to have work in the workshop his father once worked in.
But, change is about to upheave Toby's young life yet again. Just days after his father died, Toby is wanted by the police for the well-deserved whipping he gave that boy, and is going to have to leave his Pittsburg home. The shop owner, Mr. Rodgers, is going to help Toby by sending him with a guy named Lew to deliver the still he has been working on to the new owner up in Sligo. Going north for a hundred miles and back will take weeks and hopeful by the time Toby gets back everything will be sorted out. Toby is not sure Lew is anybody he wants to be with based on what he remembers his father saying about the man, but with the cops and a judge looking for him, he does not have much of a choice.
What follows is a very enjoyable tale featuring Toby and the perils of his road trip to deliver the still and come back home. The perils are many, the friends few, and the young man is tested in ways he never saw coming. This is the tale of a young man who finds himself while discovering not only his inner resources but when to listen to others and follow their lead. Told from his viewpoint, the author skillfully shows the challenges he faces and the young man begins to head into a maturity one would not have thought possible at the beginning of this very good tale.
Well written, the tale features plenty of action and suspense along with the beginnings of a first romance. Toby is a character that many, especially young boys, will relate to and shows increasing maturity throughout the work. A grand adventure that is sure to please not only the intended audience but the adults in their lives this book would also work well in the classroom as it imparts history at the same time it entertains.
First in the series, this young adult novel is an adventure that is hard to put down. It is followed by “Baby Grape And The River Folk.”
Baby Grape and Huskey
Mill City Press
Review copy was a PDF provided by the author in exchange for my objective review.
Kevin R. Tipple © 2011