The Revolution is over, but in western Massachusetts there's new unrest: laws passed way off in Boston--where it seemed too costly to send representatives--are making the poor farmer poorer, and aggrandizing the rich. When hot-tempered Peter McColloch's oxen are taken to satisfy a debt, he hies himself to Daniel Shays--and the Colliers launch us into the story of Shays' dubiously-named ""Rebellion,"" as seen by 14-year-old Justin Conkey, orphaned brother of Peter's wife Molly. There's precious little glory, insistent-volunteer Justin finds, as Shays' Regulators are outmaneuvered, outmanned, outgunned and, time after time, run away. Justin himself becomes a hero almost by accident; sees his two best friends suffocate in a potato-hole hideout one snowy night; spends cold, hungry days just marching and halting, marching and halting, in search of an enemy to fight. This is truly history talked out and walked out. Less effective is Justin's injection into the house of Peter's lordly creditor as servant and spy (where much tension is worked up over the theft of some inconsequential papers); and Justin's relations with everyone, including his worried but resolute sister, carry more intellectual than emotional conviction. Still, with Peter's fate hanging in the balance till the last--will he be executed or pardoned?--pages keep turning. And as a dramatized argument, the book is more than respectable. For, of course, the defeated rebels elect their own to the next legislature, with encouraging results; had they done so before, the whole uprising might have been avoided. Or: ""Would we ever have got our grievances redressed if we hadn't shown the government that we were willing to fight?