Reed Porter wants a smaller rifle for Christmas, but his parents keep telling him that he will grow into his Dad's rifle. And thus sets up a dilemma which broadens and deepens considerably to look at attitudes toward slavery and the abolitionist movement in Seneca, New York around 1850. This is a historical story which goes into some depth on the activities of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad and people's struggles with the concept of law, property, human dignity and value. While Reed isn't exactly certain where he stands on the issues, he learns more and more through questioning and observation which give him great experience for his desired vocation as a newspaper journalist.
In the end, Reed gets the smaller rifle he wants, but does he keep it? You'll have to find out for yourself.
This is a well written story that paces nicely and develops its own interesting voice. I highly recommend it.