Life on 19th century Mississippi River circus boat- is revealed in its true colors and sparked by an adventure to rival the lure of TV. With a crooked uncle after his inheritance, young Rush Taylor and his half-wolf dog, Shal, are forced to leave their Wisconsin home until things cool off. Once down on the Mississippi, they find work- Rush as an animal attendant and Shal as a trick dog- aboard Capt. Dan Whipple's circus boat. But the fear of his uncle, Sam Burton, and of detection through Shal's conspicuous characteristics, never leaves Rush, and when Sam, like a bad penny, turns up, there is the excitement of being marooned on an island with him before he's brought to the authorities. Fine period fiction, graced with a sense of history.