By Ann Towell
Published by Tundra Books
Juvenile Historical Fiction
Titus Sullivan is a twelve year old boy who stows away on his older brother’s wagon to escape life under the thumbs of his domineering Aunt Sophie. The two siblings arrive in Oil Springs, Ontario, in 1863, to live with their Uncle Amos and seek their fortune in black gold. Titus befriends Moses, the son of freed slaves, on the cusp of a racial riot that changes their lives forever.
I really liked Titus. He’s a plucky sort with a good heart and strong sense of justice. All of Towell’s characters are well drawn and multi-dimensional. The town of Oil Springs and its inhabitants comes alive in all its smelly, oily, rambunctiousness.
I was eagerly reading along until the last third of the book when Titus picked a fist fight with Mercy and then later I just couldn’t quite believe Titus’ silence after the riot. There seemed no justification or repercussions for the fist fight. It left me really puzzled. And the silence seemed more a plot manipulation so that Titus would not have to testify.
But the book does give insight into a little known historical event through the eyes of a charming and likable character. I would recommend it to my young friends.