Benji is an African Candian boy from Buxton, and Alvin is an Irish Canadian boy from Chatham. Benji wants to be a reporter, so his parents arrange for him to work as an apprentice at a newspaper being started in Chatham. Alvin wants to be a scientist so his father arranges for him to go to science class in Buxton. Going back and forth between the two town, Alvin and Benji meet and strike up a friendship. Their friendship is solidified when they both meet the mysterious and legendary Madman of Piney Wood.
This is a sequel/companion novel to Elijah of Buxton. It occurs 40 years after the first book and some of the adults in this book were the children in the first. Curtis addresses some hard hitting issues in this book. Alvin's Irish grandmother is hateful and abusive. I admired the fact that Curtis doesn't have the grandmother have some amazing transformation at the end to turn her into a nicer person. She stays pretty awful, but Alvin learns to recognize why she acts like she does, and pity her, instead of hating her. At one point Benji hears the Madman recount his experiences in the American Civil War and begins to understand why he behaves the way he does. In both cases the boys have loving parents that help them learn to deal with the difficult things in their lives. It is a good book. It didn't quite have the charm of the first book, and parents should be warned that the short scene where the Madman tells of his war experiences is pretty graphic. Not a good choice for a child easily upset by the injustices of the world. (363 p)