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In 1864, two boys, one a slave running toward freedom and one hoping to collect the reward for capturing him, make their way through Georgia's Okefenokee Swamp, but when Hamp finally does meet up with Duff, he realizes that the line between right and wrong is not as clear as he once thought.
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Grade 6-9–Hamp Cravey has lived his entire 12 years deep in the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia. The Civil War seemed far away until Pap went off to fight. Now he is back with one less leg and few words, and Hamp feels let down by the man he no longer recognizes as his father. There is little food or money, so when the boy hears about a reward of 500 gold pieces for the capture of a runaway slave, he decides to track the fugitive. With only his favorite hound, a shotgun with a few shells, and a small amount of food, Hamp uses his keen tracking sense to find Duff, the slave accused of killing his owner. Hamp is surprised by the young man's intelligence and survival skills. He struggles with his preconceived ideas about Negroes, and must decide whether money or a human life is more important. Siegelson weaves a tight story about life in the swamp, and how perceptions can change with experience. Her vivid use of language draws a tangible and satisfying picture of the wild tangle of the Okefenokee Swamp and all of its dangers and beauty. Hamp is a believable character who struggles between what he has been taught and what his conscience tells him. While this story is physically removed from the Civil War, the moral and ethical problems of slave ownership are brought to the forefront and dealt with in a realistic manner.–Anna M. Nelson, Seabrook Library, NH
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*Starred Review* Gr. 7-12. Far from any romantic slave escape and rescue story, this Civil War novel is told from the viewpoint of Hamp, 12, a poor white kid in the Okefenokee Swamp area, who, with his dog, tracks down a runaway, Duff, for the bounty. But the two fight and bond, then Hamp helps Duff escape. Siegelson knows the swamp area, and she makes the place a dense presence on every page, including details about the particular birds, insects, other animals, and plants that may be too much for some readers. But the wilderness facts root the story in amazing moments of danger and protection, whether the boys are avoiding alligators or finding direction by watching the birds, the shadows, and the stars. This is one of the few Civil War stories to show the Confederate side in all its complexity. Hamp has never seen a "Negra," never mind had a slave. Papa didn't support slavery; in fact, he fought the Yankees, and he lost a leg. When Hamp tells Duff about Pa's loss, Duff's answer says it all: "Never met mine. Old Massa bought Mama when she was heavy with me, but he didn't want Daddy." Now Duff is searching for his sister who was sold away. The survival adventure will draw kids, many of whom will want to talk about how Hamp overcomes his prejudice and learns the hard truth. Hazel Rochman
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Book Description Philomel, 2004. Hardcover. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110399240217
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