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Swifty Slowpoker
Possum Boy Battles The Mulefoot Menace
Eleven-year-old Delphus V. White lives a pretty idyllic life at Clover Bottom Hospital and School with his pals, the Blount Brothers. That is, until The Mulefoot boar came into their lives. Named for his single, fused hooves, The Mulefoot wreaks havoc at Clover Bottom’s hog farm. The situation heats up when the CIA orders Delphus to terminate The Mulefoot with extreme prejudice! OR did Delphus just dream up that part?
Slowpoker debuts with an exuberant caper that reveals the resilience of boys relegated to a mental health institution. In mid-1970s Tennessee, eleven-year-old Delphus V. White, who believes himself a possum mutant, lives at the Clover Bottom Hospital and School for children. He spends his days savoring comic books with his plucky, fart joke-loving pals and birthing piglets on the property’s farm. After his beloved case worker dies, an abusive pedophile named Dick Phillips takes charge of the boys and their hog chores. Convinced a CIA agent has recruited him, Delphus decides that only destroying the farm’s demonic Mulefoot boar will bring about Phillips’s downfall.

The author spent time growing up in the custody of Tennessee’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and renders the hospital and its residents with vivid description and spot-on dialogue. At times whimsical, poetic, or irreverent, Slowpoker skillfully uses humor to mask the melancholy pervading these lost boys’ existence. Even after Delphus, who suffers from epilepsy, stumbles into the “normal” outside life of happy families and helpful salesmen, he chooses to return to Clover Bottom, noting without complaint, “Out in the real world, there ain’t no place for us to go.” Superheroes, kung fu Buddhists, and CIA agents fill the boys’ imaginations as their reveries come to life. Occasionally, extended tangents distract from the narrative momentum, but these anecdotes carry ample charm thanks to Delphus’s spritely wit.

The author’s lighthearted name aside, this is sophisticated literature, both in structure and character depth. Artifacts intersperse Delphus’s first-person narrative—a newspaper article, footnotes, and more—and moments of magical realism intertwine with practical challenges. The characters’ vibrant, evolving personalities and varied voices are memorable. The life-affirming connections between these young people nurturing one another against the odds will appeal to readers of serious fiction about mental health, social services, and growing up.

Takeaway: A playful yet profound caper peeks into the hidden lives of lovable youth mental health-facility residents.

Great for fans of: Victor Lodato’s Mathilda Savitch, Truman Capote’s My Side of the Matter.

Production grades
Cover: B-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: B