In 1901, Benji Alston lives in Buxton, Ont., a real-life town settled by abolitionists and runaway slaves (and the setting of Curtis’s Newbery Honor–winning Elijah of Buxton). Alvin “Red” Stockard, son of an Irish immigrant and a local judge, resides in nearby Chatham. The woods of the title connect the two towns, and both boys have grown up hearing cautionary tall tales about a wild boogeyman who lives there. Writing in his customary episodic style, Curtis relates their separate stories in alternating chapters, incorporating a large cast, his trademark humor and gritty hijinks, and the historical events that shaped the people and the area: slavery, the U.S. Civil War, and Irish immigration. It takes more than half the book for the boys—both 13—and their stories to connect, which may try the patience of some readers. Those who persist, though, will be rewarded with an update on what became of Elijah, the hero of the first book, as Curtis delivers an ending that ties together the two stories, set 40 years apart, in a poignant and powerful way. Ages 8–12. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/07/2014 Release date: 09/30/2014 Genre: Children's
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