A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
NOVEMBER 20:

  • Happy birthday Marion Dane Bauer (On My Honor) and Jill Thompson (Scary Godmother).
  • It’s the birth date of Peregrine White (1620–1704) the first English child born in what the Pilgrims considered the New World.
  • In 1820, an eighty-ton sperm whale attacked the whaling ship Essex in 1820 inspiring the book Moby-Dick by Herman Melville.
  • No way, it’s Absurdity Day! Read Gooney Bird is So Absurd by Lois Lowry.
  • Universal Children’s Day is the anniversary of the United Nations Assembly’s Rights of the Child Declaration (1959) and Convention (1989). Read For Every Child by Unicef, adapted by Caroline Castle and illustrated by John Birmingham.

On the third Saturday in November, the town of Gettysburg celebrates Remembrance Day with a parade of Civil War groups and organizations. One of the most dramatic events of the battle at Gettysburg occurred on the second day when Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Bowdoin College professor who commanded the 20th Maine, was sent to defend Little Round Top, at the extreme left of the Union Army. At one critical point, out of ammunition and resources, Chamberlain ordered his men to make a bayonet charge against the Confederates, an act that saved the day for the Union. At the core of the brilliant adult novel The Killer Angels and the film Gettysburg, Chamberlain and the 20th Maine also play an important role in a novel for young readers, aged eight to twelve, Rodman Philbrick’s The (Mostly) True Adventures of Homer P. Figg, winner of a Newbery Honor Award.

Philbrick, a genius at creating child-friendly books such as Freak the Mighty and The Last Book in the Universe, has accomplished something extraordinary in his saga of two Maine boys, who inadvertently become soldiers in the Civil War. He has fashioned a tall tale that allows readers to turn the pages breathlessly as they absorb Civil War history. Homer, as the title suggests, has a tendency to dissemble a bit, even though he tells us at the beginning, “My name is Homer P. Figg and these are my true adventures.” Like many unreliable narrators, Homer never allows the truth to stand in the way of a good story. When his brother Harold is sold by a villainous uncle to fight in the Civil War, Homer heads out to save Harold from the clutches of the Union. Abduction, robbery, and espionage in a hydrogen balloon are just a few of our hero’s adventures before he and his brother end up with Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the 20th Maine at Little Round Top, winning the Civil War for the brave boys in blue. Or so Homer would have us believe.

One of the problems all writers of historical fiction for children face is making young readers believe these figures from the past are actual people. Although he is a terrible fibber, Homer P. Figg is fun to hang out with; he’s loyal and funny and fresh. In fact, Mr. Chamberlain was lucky to have him there at Gettysburg. Kids love this book for its lightning-quick plot, page-turning story, and plucky main character; adults appreciate how much real history young readers learn as they go merrily along with Homer on his adventures.

If you weren’tlucky enough to be one of the thousands to attend Remembrance Day celebrations in Gettysburg, read The (Mostly) True Adventures of Homer P. Figg to appreciate what happened in this sleepy Pennsylvania town so many years ago.

Here’s a passage from The (Mostly) True Adventures of Homer P. Figg:

I say my “true” adventures because I told a fib to a writer once, who went and put it in the newspaper about me and my big brother, Harold, winning the battle of Gettysburg, and how we shot each other dead but lived to tell the tale. That’s partly true, about winning the battle, but most ways it’s a lie.

Telling the truth don’t come easy to me, but I will try, even if old Truth ain’t nearly as useful as a fib sometimes.

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Originally posted November 20, 2010. Updated for .

Tags: Adventure, Award Winning, Civil War, History, Newbery
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for The (Mostly) True Adventures of Homer P. Figg
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COMMENTS

  1. Esther Frazee says:

    HI Anita,

    Thank you very much for this website. It may be the only professional development teachers and librarians need. What a fantastic resource!
    It was fun to see you at the conference in Dedham last week. I enjoyed hearing about your new book.
    Please stop by Tenacre Country Day School if you are ever in the area. I currently have two projects I think you would enjoy seeing.

    Best,
    Esther Frazee

  2. Maria Simon says:

    My adult/child book discussion group thoroughly enjoyed this exciting novel. The kids wanted to do all of the extension activities-I think because the story was so creative and it inspired them. We had an interesting discussion about the different illustrated book covers too.

  3. Anita says:

    Maria: Thanks for the feedback. What I love about this book is the way it combines fact (history) with story. Good to hear it worked for your discussion group.

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