I was interested in reading this because of a review which compared it to Mark Twain. the review was right on! The book takes place on the Mississippi river, riverboat, gamblers, and runaways all included. The main character, Zebulon Crabtree, age 12, is sent downriver by his parents to apprentice with a great uncle in a tannery. He falls under the influence of a riverboat gambler, Chilly, and never makes it to his great uncle's place. Instead he learns alot about who he is and life in general from the gamblers, a runaway slave and a blind Indian chief and his daughter. At the end he decides of course that gambling is not for him. The fun is watching the tale unfold and seeing how Helgerson puts it all together. Wonderful characters and lots of fun.