Readers don't have to have read Dear Levi (1994, not reviewed) to enjoy this sequel, a gripping historical novel that covers...

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DEAR AUSTIN: Letters from the Underground Railroad

Readers don't have to have read Dear Levi (1994, not reviewed) to enjoy this sequel, a gripping historical novel that covers two boys' journeys from innocence to manhood. In 1853, young Levi and his buddies, Possum and Jupiter, create a daredevil's club, through which they attempt to outrun bulls, jump off cliffs, and investigate strange occurrences in their small Pennsylvania town. The tone shifts from the humor of boyhood scrapes to tragedy when Jupiter's little sister, Darcy, is captured by slave traders. Jupiter and Levi head south to find her, a journey that is particularly eye-opening for naive Levi. The action unfolds through his letters to his brother Austin; these range from laugh-out-loud funny to poignant. Powerful emotions are subtly and expertly conveyed, from Levi's amusing embarrassment in dancing class, to his guilt for Darcy's kidnapping, to his horror at the slave auction. Woodruff combines swift pacing, historical detail (Harriet Tubman makes an appearance), humor, suffering, depth, and precise characterizations, for wholly satisfying page turner.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0375803564

Page Count: 134

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1998