By Ann Towell
Completed April 18, 2010
Grease Town by Ann Towell tells the story of Titus Sullivan, a 12-year-old meek child who decided to escape his overhearing aunt and stowaway on his brother’s wagon to Oil Springs, the first oil boom town in Canada. Titus was sheltered and impressionable, and his journey and time in Oil Springs showed him that real life was full of hard knocks and injustices. It’s Titus’ responses to these hard times that showed his true character – one of courage and fairness. His development from a boy in a shell to a young man branching out was a delight to read.
The crux of the novel is Titus’s befriending of Moses – a young black boy whose family escaped from slavery. Moses and his family worked on the oil rigs for less wages than their white counterparts. Some of the white workers took advantage of this discrepancy, accusing the black laborers of unfairly stealing “their” work. This discontent eventually led to a riot and the burning of many black workers’ houses, including Moses’ family. Titus witnessed the destruction first hand, and despite his normally introverted manner, Titus knew he had to do the right thing. He alone could offer justice to the black workers who lost everything. Indeed, sometimes the hardest thing to do is the right thing.
Grease Town is written for a younger audience (ages 10-14), and it is an ideal book for this age group. The story teaches important lessons about right and wrong, and the deeply entrenched racial issues that still plague our country. Adult readers could enjoy Grease Town too - it’s a quick but engaging historical read for all ages. 4 stars.