THE MADMAN OF PINEY WOODS by Christopher Paul Curtis. New York: Scholastic Press, 2014. ISBN 978-0-545-15664-6 hc. $16.99 Gr. 4-7 J FIC
Fourth and fifth grade students won’t stop reading THE MADMAN OF PINEY WOODS until they solve of the mystery behind this local legend set just across the border in Ontario, Canada. Michigan’s own Christopher Paul Curtis lays out a dual storyline with Benji and Red, two boys from very different backgrounds. Benji, a descendant of Aftican-American slaves, loves the outdoors and spends his time playing pranks on his twin siblings, while polishing his writing skills for the local newspaper. Red, nicknamed for his hair color, is second generation Irish and lives in constant fear of his unpredictable Grandmother O’Toole, a survivor of the disease-ridden coffin ships arriving from Ireland in the 1840’s. Benji and Red narrate their own stories and come together for a dramatic rescue involving the Madman. The author sprinkles the pages with humor, adds plenty of adventure, and wraps it up with regional history. Although this is a sequel to ELIJAH OF BUXTON, the thirty year time span and large array of characters allows each story to stand on its own.
Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center