HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Ballad of Huck and Miguel
Author: Tim DeRoche
Illustrator: Daniel Gonzalez
Publisher: Redtail Press, 2018
Related website(s): http://www.redtailpress.com
Language level: 3
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: My recommendation is ages 16 and up
Rating: **** 4 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Category: General fiction
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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DeRoche, Tim. The Ballad of Huck and Miguel (Published in 2018 by Redtail Press, Los Angeles, CA). It is past the year 2000, and almost nine year old Huckleberry (Huck) Finn lives in St. Petersburg, MO, with his alcoholic, abusive Pap; Huck’s Mama “went away” a long time ago. At the urging of his friend Alfonse, Pap decides to drive his camper all the way to California where Alfonse says that he can get rich quick by doing a little job for him. Once they get there, Huck escapes and meets a boy named Tom Sawyer in Compton, CA, where the two witness a drug deal—Pap’s job for Alfonse. The police arrive just after Pap flees with his life. Huck testifies against the drug dealer, is given a reward, and goes to live with Ms. Douglas and Miss Watson. He befriends their “Mexigrant” (illegal immigrant) cowboy Miguel. However, Huck’s new life is disrupted when Pap returns to steal back his son and savagely attacks the two women.
Unfortunately, Miguel is falsely accused of the attack, so, chased by both Huck’s vengeful and psychotic father and the police, Miguel and Huck escape on a raft down the concrete gash that is the Los Angeles River where, riding the dangerous waters of a rainstorm, the two fugitives meet a strange cast of Angelenos. Will they be able to escape from Pap? What happens with Ms. Douglas and Miss Watson? And does Huck ever find out where his Mama actually went? I don’t know what the intended age range for this book is, but I could not conscientiously recommend it for younger children (unless read aloud with some judicious editing). A small amount of cursing (the “d” and “h” words) occur, and one character calls Huck a “sonofabi*ch.” Also there are references to smoking cigarettes, selling drugs, shootings, drinking “licker,” and “homersexuals.”
In fact, this exchange takes place. Huck asks Ms. Douglas if she’s a “thespian.” When she wonders what he means, he replies, “Well, my Pap says that a lady who marries a lady is a thespian.” She smiles and answers, “Why, yes, Huckleberry. Why then I suppose I am a thespian.” I can just imagine some innocent little boy or girl asking, “Mommy, are ‘thespians’ really women who marry women?” And not everyone may agree with all of the political assumptions which seem to underlie the story. Some may even find the plot a little “pro-illegal immigrant.” Each person will have to make up his or her own mind on that issue. Otherwise, for older teens and adults, The Ballad of Huck and Miguel is an interesting and somewhat humorous retelling of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, set in modern times.