Crouch’s facility with character voices gives color and atmosphere to this tale of a Southern white country boy forced to help an evil overseer track down a runaway slave family. Charlie is a simple, naive, uneducated boy who only knows farming, but when his father dies in 1858, cruel Cap’n Buck insists on his help as payment for his father’s debts. Charlie comes to sympathize with the slave family he is pursuing and must make a choice whether to help them, at great risk to himself. Crouch reads Charlie with just enough of a folksy Southern twang to make lines like “If you was to ax me afore I seent what happened to Pap, I never would’ve thought time could slow down in the way it done” sound natural, while not making the accent so thick that children would have trouble understanding it. His Cap’n Buck has a monstrous, growling voice, while the runaway slave woman is dignified and fierce in her righteous defiance, and her son Sylvanus, who attends a boarding school, has an educated, intellectual tone. Crouch brings the characters to life, making this adventure novel all the more entertaining. Ages 9–12. A Scholastic Press hardcover. (Feb.)
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