Grease Town

Grease Town

by Ann Towell


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A heartbreaking history of prejudice, family ties, and the loss of innocence.When twelve-year-old Titus Sullivan decides to run away to join his Uncle Amos and older brother, Lem, he finds an alien and exciting world in Oil Springs, the first Canadian oil boomtown of the 19th century.

The Enniskillen swamp is slick with oil, and it takes enterprising folk to plumb its depths. The adventurers who work there are a tough lot of individuals. In this hard world, Titus becomes friends with a young black boy, the child of slaves who came to Canada on the Underground Railroad. When tragedy strikes in the form of a race riot, Titus's loyalties are tested as he struggles to deal with the terrible fallout.

Though the characters are fictitious, the novel is based on a race riot that occurred in Oil Springs, Ontario, on March 20, 1863. Grease Town is historical fiction at its finest.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780887769832
Publisher: Tundra
Publication date: 02/09/2010
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.90(d)
Lexile: 700L (what's this?)
Age Range: 12 - 14 Years

About the Author

ANN TOWELL was born in Chatham, Ontario, and grew up in Wallaceburg. She was co-finalist, with her husband, world-renowned photographer Larry Towell, for the Dorothea Lange/Paul Taylor Award for work on the Mennonites, a segment that appeared in the 1994 summer edition of Descant magazine. Her first children's novel The Hollow Locust Trees was published by Black Moss Press in 1998. She has four children: Moses, Naomi, Noah, and Isaac and a granddaughter, River Annabelle. She lives near Shetland, Ontario, on a 75-acre farm.

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Grease Town 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
DF1A_ChristieR on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow, amazing book. I give it 10 thumbs up.
katheebee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Other reviewers have provided terrific summaries of Grease Town, so another will not be offered. Grease Town is a well written and interesting story that can offer readers of all ages interesting and historical perspectives on important issues of race, family and friendship. The location of the book will be especially interesting to residents of southwestern Ontario. I agree with other reviewers that it would have been interesting to hear directly from Moses on his perspective. Uncle Amos and Lem were both warm and wonderful character, but, like a previous reviewer, I found some Aunt Sophie/Sadie switches in the book! The cover summary of my copy references Aunt Sophie, while the novel itself tells us about Aunt Sadie. This book will definitely be shared with an avid young reader!
roguelibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Plot: In the middle of the 19th century oil boon, 12-year-old Titus Sullivan follows his elder brother to Oil Springs where they hope to make a life for themselves. They find that the promises of riches were overstated but remain nonetheless. Titus soon befriends a young black boy, the son of one of the escaped slaves who have made Canada their home. But not everyone gets along as well with the escaped slaves and they soon find themselves in the middle of a race riot. And Titus may be the only one who can get justice for his new friends.There are not enough books about black history in Canada. The libraries I¿ve worked for have always had very diverse communities and I¿ve found that it can be a challenge to find books that are equally diverse. Still, I wish that this book were from the point of view of a black child rather than yet another book about the brave white man (in this case boy) who saves the poor coloured people. The black characters are not really given a voice at all in this story even though it is purportedly about them; they remain rather mysterious, even Titus¿ friend Moses. That aside, it is an interesting book. It has been very well researched and it deals with a lot of serious issues such as racism in an accessible (if occasionally heavy handed) way. The whole story is told from Titus¿ point of view and he really does read like a 12-year-old. In fact he has a bit of a Huck Finn feel to him. It¿s a story I¿m sure 12-year-old boys could enjoy and learn something from. Personally, I¿m going back to The Book of Negroes until I find something a bit more promising on the YA front.
kissmeimgone on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book tells a coming of age story, involving a boy who befriends a black boy during uncivil times. Their town is at an unease, and the races are clashing and lashing out against each other. However, there are those that do believe the two races should just be at peace with each other because the blacks are simply humans too. In a turn-paging novel, this book was simply hard to put down. I'd recommend it to anyone, especially boys around the age of 8-14.
CarolynSchroeder on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful little novel for young adults (or even older children 10-13?) with the unusual setting of 1863 London, Ontario and the "grease town" of Oil Springs. Titus is a 12-year-old boy trying to find where he belongs after the death of his parents to "the fevers." He escapes his strict Christian Aunt and hitches a ride with his brother Lemuel and both boys travel to Oil Springs (where their Uncle Amos lives) to find work, school and family, but instead finds the rough oil mining life and enormous tensions between the freed slaves and the prejudiced white Canadians and Americans who travelled there to strike it rich. Titus struggles to understand the prejudice that abounds, along with his friend Moses, in the citizens of the town and the people he is supposed to love. The book has some fast, hard lessons about hate with no reason, death and speaking up for what you believe in. But it also has a beautiful amount to say on what is family in a non-traditional sense. The writing is easy and thought-provoking and done well for the age group. I really enjoyed learning about the oil business and what drew families up there during the time. Highly recommended.
meggyweg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I want to say two things up front. The first is that the book has a picture of a black boy on the cover, understandable since the story is about a race riot, but the picture lead me to believe that the protagonist was black and it was awhile before I realized he wasn't. The fact that his name was Titus (the type of name masters often gave their slaves) didn't really help. Perhaps I should have realized the protagonist's race sooner, but I wish it had been more clear from the beginning.The second thing is that I really hope my copy is an advance review copy (it doesn't say so on the cover) because the book refers to Titus's aunt as Sophie sometimes and Sadie other times. I hope this error was corrected in the final edition because it was very annoying.This was a decent enough story, and the twelve-year-old narrator's voice generally rang true (except for one small part where he talked about "disparaging remarks"), as did the atmosphere of social unrest that preceded the race riot. However -- I am trying to say this without giving anything away -- the riot seemed whitewashed to a certain extent. It seems like it could have and should have had more severe and far-reaching consequences than it did.That said, I'm sure many children in the target age group (especially boys) will find this an enjoyable read.
mdtwilighter on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the story of a young boy, Titus, who moves to a rough town built around an oil discovery there. He is living with Uncle Amos and brother, Lem. It tells about his life there and the opposition between black families there and the white townspeople.I liked the kind of 'Little House on the Prairie' narration, but I don't think that it suited the story. I think the whole black and white separation should have been a bigger part of the story and it was largely absent from Titus's everyday life. It either had to be made bigger or be dropped to a much smaller part of the story. I did like the character's and the view through Titus's eyes was interesting.
exploreacademy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Grease town is set in Oil Springs, Ontario. Young Titus has had his share of problems in his life. His parents died when he was young, and he can't take his life being controlled by his Aunt Sadie and Uncle Robert. So, he runs away with his older brother Lemuel, and gets caught up in Oil Springs life. He forms friendships and learns about courage. When two men try to ruin everything with a race riot, it's up to Titus to testify in the name of justice. This heartwarming story is the perfect tale of growing up and forming deep friendships.
grnpickle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I tried really hard to like this book. It is historical fiction set in Canada, which is interesting because you usually don't find many Canadian historical fiction pieces. I found the book very confusing and lacking necessary details at times, especially when it came to the main character. I picked it up and put it down many times. Wasn't my cup of tea.
tallgurrl01 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I felt like I was living in Canada while reading this book. Well written. I look forward to reading more from this author.
ElizaJane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Reason for Reading: I'll pretty much read any juvenile/YA Canadian historical fiction on topics which are new or interesting to me.Summary: Loosely based on a true incident in the Sarnia area of Ontario, Canada, this book tells the story of an oil boom town, the people who fled there and focuses on the friendship between a white boy and a black boy. The book's main historical event is a race riot which left the blacks homeless and very little actual information survives of it today.Comments: I really enjoyed this book aimed at pre-teen children set during the 1860s. The descriptions of an oil boom town and both the shady and eccentric characters it attracted are wonderfully described. The atmosphere is not unlike that of the Goldrush towns. What makes Oil Springs different is that it is populated by both whites and escaped American black slaves. The author shows how the practice of the times, paying the blacks less money than the whites, became easy fodder for insurgents to come in and stir up dangerous feelings with the less desirable characters in town. While not only describing the horrifying results of a senseless race riot the author also shows how easy it is for someone determined enough, in this case a pair of American bounty hunters, to create a mob mentality and control it by preying on their insecurities. Very insightful and at a level that the targeted audience will understand.The narrative voice is very intriguing and works very well, also. At first the narrative seems to cross over the line and speak directly to the reader, which is a little unsettling but then the reader realizes that the narrator is not speaking to them. The narrator is speaking to someone else, whom he eventually starts calling sir and we realize that what we are reading is a written account of the main character's experience in Oil Springs, perhaps a journal or a letter or something else but written directly to someone. Finding out in the end the purpose of this written narrative makes for a great realization. An enjoyable book which I will definitely be passing on to my 9yo for his bedtime reading.
mrstreme on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
Soniamarie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a novel aimed at the adolesent bracket, but my thirty year old self thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a touching story with a moral. Thru the eyes of a twelve year old boy, Titus, readers see what life was like in a booming oil town in colonial Canada. During this time, America is engaged in the civil war and runaway slaves are running to Canada where they can be free... supposedly. Titus has his everyday twelve year old problems such as being small and somewhat sickly, dealing with girls, worrying about his snobby Aunt Sadie taking him away from his beloved Uncle Amos, and going to school. But Titus's biggest problem of all is watching his friend Moses, the son of a former slave, be mistreated simply because of his skin color. As Titus starts to learn about hypocrisy and hate, the town's trouble makers target the "shanty town" of former slaves, aiming to run them out of town or worse. Can Titus get to his friend Moses in time? Can he save his friend? Just how much can one twelve year old boy do?A great read, not all completely serious either. Occasionally, Titus injects humor into his narrative regarding girls or his Aunt Sadie, getting quit a few chuckles from me. If I had children, I would be pressing this into their hands.
lpcoolgirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found Grease Town to be a pretty well rounded book, one that has lessons of history, obviously, seeing as its a historical, and it spells out some harsh realities that some people faced in the times that it took place in. I really enjoyed reading it. I liked Titus's character, especially the beginning where he stows away on his brother's wagon.
lostbooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I won't summarize the book, since that is done very well in the previous reviews. I thought this was a good read and the subject matter was very interesting. The cover gave me the wrong impression on who the main character was going to be. I thought the main character would be the son of escaped slaves, not a young white pre-teen. It took me awhile to realize that Titus was white. I agree with the reviewer that said that Moses's family could have been developed more. I to refresh my memory on Moses's last name to realize that Mrs. Caruther was his mother when she appears towards the end of the book.I will be handing this book off to my 11 yr old son to read, I think he is the perfect age for this story. It is a very well written novel aimed at the 10-14 year age range. A good historical novel that will introduce pre-teens to that time period. I highly recommend it.
ladydymondz on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Breathtakingly beautiful...Towell knows how to pull at the heartstrings...