When Zebulon Crabtree turned twelve in 1849, his parents sent him up the Mississippi River to serve as an apprentice to his uncle, who worked with animal skins as a tanner. Along the way, Zeb got sidetracked by a professional gambler, a professor who plays violin for his pet chickens, and Indian chief and his daughter, and a host of other wild characters. Zeb never did make it to his uncle, but the adventures he had instead make for a very exciting and interesting story.
This book is a quick-paced historical adventure, the only drawback being that it's written with kind of an old-timey voice, and today's readers won't understand some of the words used. The author tried to fix that by adding a dictionary (glossary) to the back of the book, but I'm not sure how much that will help the average fourth grade reader. This is such a new book (published three months ago), that I haven't talked to any kids who've read it, and I may be (as I usually am) pleasantly surprised by how they don't get bothered by language as much as I do.
Read this if you like rollicking tales of the old west, or if you want to see what happens to a boy the age of today's sixth graders who has to survive on his own in a wild city at a wild time in the wild west. It's funny (if you get the jokes), historically accurate (with an afterward explaining everything at the end), and a book you can learn from at the same time as you enjoy yourself. It's a book with a cool cover, a boring title, and unforgettable characters.
If you like this, you may also enjoy The Misadventures of Maude March and Gary Paulsen's Mr. Tucket stories.