Huck – yes that Huck – or a reasonable facsimile thereof, is back in all his boyish glory in this modern-day tale about a gutsy survivor. If you’ve read Mark Twain’s classic, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, you know Huck has experienced physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his father, a violent drunk who Huck wants to believe has some good in him somewhere.
In this tale, Huck endures a journey across the country from Missouri to California, with Pap (Huck’s father), in search of fortune and the easy life; Huck in hopes of escape from relentless beatings when Pap is drunk, which seems to be most of the time.
In his attempts to evade Pap once they reach California, Huck encounters several people who in time prove to be better friends than he could have imagined. One of them is Miguel, a Mexican immigrant whose goals in life are to remain in the United Stated and reunite with his wife and daughter. When Pap’s evil plan to get Huck back results in two innocent women being attacked, Miguel fears he will be blamed and sent back to Mexico, leaving his wife and child behind.
Thus begins an adventure down a different kind of big river, the concrete sided river that runs through Los Angeles. At no time is Huck safe from Pap’s determination to visit bodily harm on him, maybe even death. Miguel and Huck encounter many interesting characters along the way.
The pace is fast, the characters engaging and the illustrations by Daniel Gonzales captivating. The book has received high acclaim for capturing the tone of a well-told tale from another era. It is a deceptively simple premise that explores what immigrants face in uncertain times and offers backwoods wisdom about complex social issues.
Huck and Miguel have quite an adventure and remind us what friendship is all about. I give it a hearty thumb’s up.
Title: The Ballad of Huck and Miguel
Author: Tim DeRoche
Illustrator: Daniel Gonzales
Publisher: Redtail Press
Price: Hardcover, $23.65