A rebellious Massachusetts boy finds himself caught up in the Underground Railroad.
Deemed still too young to join the crew of his father's clipper ship, 12-year old Ray and his pet monkey, Allie, are left with his miserly Uncle Slye when his mother has to tend an ailing relative. Less than 24 hours later, Ray runs away to join the crew of Uncle Thad's schooner, which is making a run up the coast to Canada. Ray's heard rumors of stowaways, and he's smart enough to connect them with the new Fugitive Slave Act, which says that anyone caught helping runaway slaves will be imprisoned. Uncle Thad's cook is a former slave, but he has free papers—so why is he being so secretive? Allie's constant mischief leads Ray to discover Cook's infant granddaughter, hidden in the pantry. When slave-catchers board the boat, Ray's quick thinking earns him a real place on the crew. Stiles intersperses Ray's first-person narration with short third-person accounts of the baby's brother, Ogun, and mother as they make their way north through swamps and forests, aided by members of the Underground Railroad. While enlightening, Ogun's story is too choppy to be fully engaging. Occasionally the monkey’s antics wear thin, but Ray's character is appealing, and the plot propels itself forward with storms, sharks and other seaborne perils.
Adventuresome and enjoyable, even if it breaks little new ground. (Historical fiction. 8-12)