Joe runs his own newspaper, quite an accomplishment for a 14-year-old, even in 1861. With the Civil War beginning and a young spiritualist in town, he’s got lots to write about.
In small Wiscasset, Maine, there’s only one newspaper. Dispatches from Fort Sumter are being telegraphed north, enabling Joe to publish one special edition after another, thanks to the help of flighty friend Charlie and African-American assistant Owen. Getting these editions out is paramount, as the loan he used to start the business is coming due in days, and he hasn’t got enough to pay it back. His frequent, worried accounting of pennies is surprisingly poignant. The young spiritualist Nell, in the unkind custody of her aunt and uncle, is also drawing local attention. Joe vacillates between supporting Charlie’s desire to figure out her tricks and reveal them to the public and a growing sense that she does communicate with the dead. When Owen goes missing, her help may prove critical. Wait nicely captures the infrequently depicted Northern homefront of the Civil War, as well as the entrepreneurial drive that some teens shared when there were fewer age-based labor restrictions. Joe’s homespun voice captures the full flavor of a smart and determined kid with his eyes firmly on the future, richly evoking time and place.
A worthy and entertaining trip back through time. (Historical fiction. 10-14)