Synopses & Reviews
"Returning to the banks of the Mississippi in his second novel, Helgerson (Horns and Wrinkles) creates an enjoyable yarn, albeit one that feels a little rushed. Twelve-year-old Zebulon 'Zeb' Crabtree is sent down the river to St. Louis to become an apprentice tanner, much to his dismay ('when I tried to point out that working with hides might rip my nose apart, Pa claimed that us Crabtrees were made of sterner stuff'). On the riverboat, a gambler named Chilly persuades him to be his apprentice instead, and Zeb is quickly inaugurated into the gambling underworld, hiding behind the wall of a poker room to signal other players' hands to Chilly and getting mixed up in Chilly's attempt to cheat a blind Native American chief. Eventually, Zeb has doubts about the life he's chosen and is forced to make some hard choices. Zeb has a strong voice and personality (though his cluelessness strains believability), and the supporting characters including the chief's daughter and a slave named Ho-John are well-defined. A thorough afterword and glossary nicely supplement the novel, but the quick resolution will leave readers wanting. Ages 8 12." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Inspired by Twains Life on the Mississippi, Helgersons folksy and chatty tale is also reminiscent of Huckleberry Finn in Zebs struggles with his conscience and its themes of slavery and freedom."--Kirkus"Helgerson surrounds Zeb with a lively cast of scruffy no-goodniks, a determined slave, and a mystical Indian father-daughter duo, and lets the boy work out for himself whom to trust and how to act. A glossary at the end will help kids navigate Zebs folksy-funny narration, separating simple blimblam” from a full-on case of the fantods.” A solid choice for fans of high-spun yarns and not-too-tall tales."--Booklist ". . . the enormous cast of characters, all of whom open the door wide for a sequel to this rousing tale. A full house of appended authors notes, including information about apprenticeships, vision quests, and traveling medicine shows, provides rich historical background, while a glossary covers vivid colloquialisms and potentially unfamiliar words and terms."--Horn Book "Zeb has a strong voice and personality . . . the supporting charactersincluding the chief's daughter and a slave named Ho-Johnare well-defined. A thorough afterword and glossary nicely supplement the novel, but the quick resolution will leave readers wanting."--Publishers Weekly
"Helgerson has given us a notable and engaging piece of historical fiction that poses some of the biggest questions with which a young person must come to terms."-Richie's Picks
Three warnings for readers who hate surprises: 1. Beware of slivers, 2. and gamblers, 3. and aces.
Zebulon Crabtree found all that out the hard way back in 1849 when his mother and father shipped him off to St. Louis to apprentice with a tanner. Too bad he had serious allergies to fur and advice from his parents. Hearing the beat of a different drummer, Zeb takes up with a riverboat gambler who has some special plans for him, crosses paths with a slave who turns out to be a better friend than cook, and learns that some Indian medicine men can see even though blind. And then theres the Brotherhoodthe one that Zeb cant seem to get out of . . . Lucky for us, the price of living in turbulent times is often a good story, and Zeb spins an unforgettable one.
Leaving St. Louis in 1849, Zebulon Crabtree takes up with a riverboat gambler who has some special plans for him, crosses paths with a slave who becomes a friend, and learns that some Indian medicine men can see even though blind. Illustrations.
About the Author
Joseph Helgerson lives in Minneapolis with his wife, daughter, and son. He grew up in a small town on the Mississippi River, where his parents often took him and his brothers sandbar camping. Today he carries on that tradition with his own family.