Jim Ugly, by Sid Fleischman; HarperTrophy
(reprint edition): New York, 2oo3; $6.99
If you like mysteries and suspense/adventure books, then Jim Ugly is the book for you! Twelve-year-old Jake Bannock's father, Sam, is dead. He was buried in a pine wood coffin with ice inside to keep him cool and comfortable. But Jake has heard about a fortune in diamonds and begins to wonder if his father is really dead or just hiding out somewhere. So Jake sets out with his only inheritance, a wolf-like tracking dog named Jim Ugly, to find his father and finally learn the secrets his father had kept hidden for so long. As Jake makes his way through the barren California desert on a locomotive train, he meets many helpful and some hindering characters. Some of these characters are: the prim, prissy and emotional Wilhelmina, Sam's secret fiancée, D.D. Skeats, the self-proclaimed assassin who almost always misses his target, the traveling, boisterous "Arizona girl" performer, and the nasty Cornelius, the man who hired D.D. Skeats to kill Sam Bannock.
One exciting part of Jim Ugly is when Jake goes to the doctor who supposedly took the bullet out of his father's shoulder, but only found a bullet D.D. Skeats had fired at his foot while aiming for his father. This made Jake's suspicions about his father not being dead even more likely After Jim Ugly sniffs a shirt of Sam Bannock's, he tears across town to the railroad, Jake sprinting behind the whole way, thinking to himself, "Dad's not dead! Dad's not dead!" Thus begins a quest across miles and miles of dry, dusty terrain, over tall mountains and through many perilous areas of California, dodging an old Confederate assassin the whole way.
The big idea of this book is that people may change their opinion about others in time, like Jake did after his travels and getting to know Wilhelmina. After his father says, "She's not much like your mother, is she, Jake?" Jake answers by saying, "Nope, but I like her." Another big idea in the book is, never give up hope. Jake demonstrates this by never giving up in the search for his father. This quality is great in a human.
This book triggered many emotions in me. I was angry toward Jake's father for not telling Jake that he was getting remarried. I felt sympathetic toward Jake because he was the victim of the story So many secrets were kept from him, even the one about his father! Also, he was constantly being tailed by D.D. Skeats, and to top it all off he was getting a new mother, and he didn't know!
This book would be great for people ages nine and up who like looking for clues and solving mysteries. I hope you, like me, find this book interesting and lots of fun.