Homer Price, by Robert McCloskey, was published in 1943 by Viking.
Homer Price lives two miles out of Centerburg, where Route 56 meets 56A, but most of his friends and relatives live in town. They include Aunt Aggy and Uncle Ulysses, the Sheriff and the boys, Miss Terwilliger, Miss Naomi Enders, great-great-great granddaughter of Ezekiel Ender who founded Centerburg and who owned the precious formula for making Cough Syrup and Elixir of Life Compound. While Centerburg is not exactly nosey, precious little happens that the good citizens do not know. In six preposterous tales, Robert McCloskey takes a good look at the face of mid-western America with humorous and affectionate eyes. No matter how old or young the reader, the strange skullduggery of the Sensational Scent, the extravagant affair of the Doughnuts, the breathtaking suspense of “Mystery Yarn,” the doleful defeat of The Super-Duper, the puzzling problem o Michael Murphy’s musical Mousetrap, and the Great Pageant of One Hundred and Fifty Years of Centerburg Progress Week, will reduce him to helpless laughter.
“Preposterous,” as the jacket summary states, is a good word to describe Homer Price. “Absurd” is perhaps a better one, and also describes the genre of the book itself. The wacky tales in Homer Price are absurd, but carry a great deal of humor (and fantastic illustrations) and the sort of shenanigans of a small town that are exaggerated just enough to make it absurd, but not enough to make it lose its down-to-earth, realistic feel.
Tales such as these can really only take place in a small town, and Homer Price gives us all the small town feels you can ask for: the tight-knit community, the small businesses, the plausible scenarios that are exaggerated for effect, but have their foundation in reality. I especially loved the story of the Mystery Yarn, where Miss Terwilliger pulls a fast one on two men competing for her affections—and McCloskey gives you just enough information to figure out how she did it, but doesn’t straight out say it. I also liked his tongue-in-cheek commentary on comic books and plot tropes.
The reason I didn’t rate it higher is that the book was slightly too random and gimmick-y for my tastes. I could have done without the sheriff’s spoonerisms and some of the more absurd scenarios. It was a fun book to read, but Homer Price didn’t hold the nostalgia other childhood books have held for me (yes, I read this book when I was younger) and my adult self wasn’t satisfied.
Recommended Age Range: 8+
“Gosh, Freddy, these Super-Duper stories are all the same,” said Homer.
“No, they’re not!” said Freddy. “Sometimes the Super-Duper smashes airships and sometimes he smashes ocean liners. Then, other times he just breaks up mountains.”
“But he always rescues the pretty girl and catches the villain on the last page,” said Homer.
“Of course!” said Freddy. “That’s to show that crime does not pay!”